The Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences has broken through the 100 degrees ceiling with the awarding of another 14 degrees at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' graduation on Thursday, 22 March. This takes the overall number of degrees awarded over the last eight years to 114. The milestone also coincides with Stellenbosch University's own 100th anniversary year.
“The Faculty is very excited to be celebrating this incredible milestone in the centenary year. What started as a HOPE Project initiative in 2010 has led to this academic milestone in the 2017 academic year and not only have we hit the 100 mark, but we have catapulted to 114 degrees delivered. What was once an ambitious HOPE Project has today become the Faculty's flagship project," said Prof Anthony Leysens, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“The Graduate School is considered to be the biggest success story for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as we have developed and implemented a comprehensive and concerted set of measures to address the critical current and future shortages of trained academics in the arts, humanities and social sciences in South Africa and the continent at large," added Dr Cindy Steenekamp, Chair of the Graduate School Board.
In 2012 the first 19 doctoral degrees were awarded by the School followed by 21 awarded in 2013, 20 in 2014, 13 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and 21 in 2017.
These graduates are also completing their doctoral studies within record time.
“We enrol an average intake of 22 students per year and are delivering an average of 19 graduates per year, which means that a vast majority (75%) of our graduates have completed their degrees in the required three years or less. In this way the School has managed to half the number of years that PhD students within the faculty complete their PhD degrees. Most students take 5 years to complete their doctoral studies, while students who are registered via the School complete their degrees in 2.5 years on average" explained Steenekamp.
The Graduate School's successes over the last seven years is rather significant, especially considering that South Africa's National Development Plan calls for 5 000 new doctoral graduates to be produced by 2030. The country is still far from reaching that goal with only 2 530 PhD degrees awarded in the 2015 academic year.
Although doctoral enrolments in the Faculty have been steadily increasing, the establishment of the Graduate School in 2010 marked a major shift in doctoral education. The average increase in enrolments grew from 25% to 65% with the advent of the Graduate School's doctoral scholarship programme. The Graduate School has enrolled over 180 candidates in eight cohorts between 2010 and 2017, which represents about a quarter of the doctoral enrolments within the Faculty.
The Graduate School was established as Stellenbosch University's contribution to the Partnership for Africa's Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA) in 2010. PANGeA is a “collaborative network of leading African universities developing research capacity and confidence in bringing African expertise to Africa's challenges". The network aims to strengthen higher education in Africa by creating opportunities for fully-funded doctoral study in the arts, humanities and social sciences; collaborative research projects and exchange among partner institutions; the development of research capacity on site; and in the longer term, the establishment of joint doctoral degree programmes specifically in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
The universities involved in the PANGeA network include the University of Botswana, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the University of Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Malawi, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, Stellenbosch University, and the University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon. PANGeA is therefore enriched through developing an active footprint on which to draw intellectual diversity in terms of linguistic, cultural and national backgrounds.
Of the 114 doctoral degrees awarded, of which the last 14 graduated on Thursday, 85% are BCI (diversity) candidates; 62% are male and 38% are female; and 48% are staff members within the PANGeA network that have since resumed their academic positions at their home institutions. These graduates also come from a range of countries in Africa, including Angola (2 candidates), Botswana (2), the Democratic Republic of Congo (1), Gabon (2), Ghana (6), Kenya (11), Lesotho (1), Malawi (12), Nigeria (2), Tanzania (13), Uganda (15), Zimbabwe (20) and South Africa (27).
“A high percentage of our graduates and alumni are either retained within or enter the higher education sector in Africa. We pride ourselves in strengthening the capacity of Africa to generate new knowledge through stemming the brain drain from Africa and reversing the decline of science and scholarship in African higher education. Through the Graduate School and our involvement in PANGeA we are promoting Africa's next generation of leaders, academics and professionals" says Steenekamp.
Some of the research topics that graduates have concentrated on over the years include Ethnography and the archive: Power and politics in five South African music archives; Appraisal and evaluation in Zimbabwean parliamentary discourse and its representation in newspaper articles; Ghoema van die Kaap: The life and music of Taliep Petersen (1950-2006); Language and the politics of identity in South Africa: The case of Zimbabwean (Shona and Ndebele speaking) migrants in Johannesburg; The nature and scope of management tasks performed by volunteers on management committees of non-profit organisations; and Are "untouched citizens" creating their deliberative democracy online? A critical analysis of women's activist media in Zimbabwe.
Photo: Here are some of the 114 doctoral graduates to graduate from the Graduate School over the last eight years. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)