Doctoral Education in South Africa

Doctoral Education in South Africa
Policy, discourse and data
Nico Cloete, Johann Mouton & Charles Sheppard

Worldwide, in Africa and in South Africa, the importance of the doctorate has increased disproportionately in relation to its share of the overall graduate output over the last decade. This heightened attention has not only been concerned with the traditional role of the PhD, namely the provision of a future supply of academics. Rather, it has focused on the increasingly important role that higher education – particularly high-level skills – is perceived to play in national development and the knowledge economy.

This book is unique in the area of research into doctoral studies because it draws on a large number of studies conducted by the Centre of Higher Education Trust (CHET) and the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) over the past decade. In addition to these historical studies, new quantitative and qualitative research was undertaken to produce the evidence base for the analyses presented in the book. The studies focused on a range of issues related to the growth, efficiency, quality and transformation of doctoral education, doctoral supervision, doctoral tracer studies as well as drawing on studies from the rest of Africa and the world.

The book makes recommendations about strengthening traditional doctoral education, and proposes a paradigm shift. It concludes by raising three policy issues: reaching the National Development Plan 2030 target of 5 000 graduates per annum, South Africa as a PhD hub for Africa and differentiation among different groups of doctorate-producing institutions.

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables


About the authors

List of frequently used acronyms 

Chapter 1 The demand for a doctorate: Global, African and South African contexts

Chapter 2 The demand to increase doctorates

Chapter 3 The demand for improved efficiency

Chapter 4 The demand for transformation

Chapter 5 Improve the quality of doctoral education

Chapter 6 Multiple paths to success (Johann Louw & Gillian Godsell)

Chapter 7 Incremental change and a paradigm shift

Chapter 8 Policy choices and implications


Appendix 1 Data sources and methodology

Appendix 2 Responses to the presentation of preliminary findings from the Study on the Doctorate in South Africa (May 2014)

Appendix 3 Current trends in PhD studies: A review of articles published on the University World News website (2013)

Appendix 4 Government steering of doctoral production

Appendix 5 Additional data on the doctorate in South Africa

Appendix 6 Scenarios that will produce doctoral graduates by 2030