UCT is investigating a fall in the number of its book outputs and said it would undertake a thorough analysis at faculty and departmental level.

Cape Town - UCT is investigating a fall in the number of its book outputs and said it would undertake a thorough analysis at faculty and departmental level to establish where and why there have been declines.

With the university on the verge of concluding its 2018 audit, vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has finalised its report on South African universities’ 2017 research outputs.

The report has drawn attention, and there has been some claims that UCT’s research output was on the decline, Phakeng said.

“This is, in fact, a simplistic and not entirely accurate reading of the report,” she said.

According to the report, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has overtaken UCT in terms of the quantity of research it produced. 

However, Phakeng said the fact that UCT was now ranked sixth in the 2017’s DHET report did not mean it is the sixth most productive university in South Africa.

She said it simply meant UCT was ranked sixth in South Africa for subsidies received from the department for research outputs, according to the specific methodologies and measurements used by the department.

The University of Pretoria (UP) was most productive university in 2017 (the same as in 2015 and 2016), followed by the universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Wits and Stellenbosch (SU).

For every journal article, conference proceeding or book published, the department provides a financial subsidy as a way of distributing government funding to public universities.

Phakeng said that subsidy should not be used as an accurate measure of publication output.

She said a high number of UCT’s outputs were the result of collaborations often large-scale, international ones and that reduced its DHET subsidy income per output.

For instance, Phakeng said that in 2017, about 94% of the university’s journal publications were in international indexes, substantially more than those of the top DHET subsidy recipients UKZN (82%), UP (86%), Wits (86%), SU (85%) and UJ (85%).

Director-general of the DHET, Gwebinkundla Qonde, said the report provided an analysis of the research performance of the country’s  public higher education institutions and focused on research outputs in accredited journals, books and approved published conference proceedings.

It has been 15 years since the department started with the implementation of the Policy and Procedures for the Measurement of Research Output of Public Higher Education Institutions which was replaced by the Research Outputs Policy (2015), he said.

“Universities are key to developing a nation. They set norms and standards that underpin a nation’s knowledge capital and are dominant producers of new knowledge, critiquing information and finding new local and global applications for existing knowledge.”


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