Strengthening Knowledge Production in Universities

Strengthening Knowledge Production in Universities
Strengthening Knowledge Production in Universities
Five South African Case Studies
Cloete N & Bunting I

Internationally, there is growing consensus among national policymakers and other central socio-economic actors that universities are important drivers for economic growth and development. They contribute to the creation of a highly skilled and competent labour force, and also produce new knowledge. Properly equipped, universities can play an important role in creating the innovation and development that will support a national economy in a competitive world. However, how can this process by stimulated?

The OCED Programme on Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) focused on a range of national and institutional polices and strategies to improve knowledge production. This study provides empirical and analytical information about institution specific strategies and practices that strengthen research management. This study could also be useful for capacity building in future research management training programmes

This study, which is part of a larger project on knowledge production in South African universities, examines a selected group of universities with different historical and institutional backgrounds that all have proven evidence of growth of high-level knowledge production. Five universities have been selected from a total of 23 institutions in South Africa. The case studies which the universities submitted to the research team towards the end of 2012, as well as data from the South African Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) are the primary documents used to analyse the situation in the five universities.

A first major observation is that all of the institutions have become part of the global and national policy context of increasing knowledge production, as partially described at the Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) group meeting in Marseille (July 2013). The seven key functions of the research and management offices could be clustered into three broad categories: development, support and incentives. The development function
deals, on the one hand, with policies that promote research culture and, on the other hand, with broader capacity building, such as further studies and academic advancement.Support is mainly concerned with specific skills, often legal and financial assistance for commercialisation, grant applications and funds management among others. The functions focusing on direct incentives are predominantly output orientated, while indirect incentives are more oriented towards career development and high- status awards. Institutions focussed on different combinations of the three approaches to strengthen research output, based on their academic and managerial capacity. The five selected institutions have all increased their research output over the last five years. They also mirror an international trend where the ‘managerial professional’ strata in universities has expanded and consolidated.