The significant role of a SARChI in developing research excellence and human capital at universities

Professor Ramesh Bharuthram
Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, University of the Western Cape

A dedicated research appointment in the form of a SARChI Chair enables us to grow our emerging/established research niche areas into internationally competitive centres producing output of the highest quality. We also ensure that our Chairs act as mentors for younger staff members. The post-doctoral fellows and the Chairs enable us to increase our cohort of postgraduate students. Through these two initiatives the Chairs contribute to the development of the new generation of academic leaders.

Dr Prins Nevhutalu
Tshwane University of Technology
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Partnerships

For Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), with a developing research culture, the award of a Research Chair was considered a major “support for transformation” and a contribution to the establishment of research culture. The current impact of the Chair can be summarised as follows. For the first time TUT was able to recruit quality students from all over South Africa who were following Professor Dakora based on his credibility and status within the agriculture and biotechnology community. The Chair played a critical catalytic role in the development of supportive systems, policies and infrastructure for post-graduate students. For the first time, the university had to deal with accommodation for post-graduate students.

The university has moved very rapidly based on the contributions of the Chair to set up monitoring mechanisms for the progress of postgraduate students which has a direct impact on the throughput rate of postgraduate students. This without any doubt will fast track the provisioning of the necessary high skills for the country. More Research Chairs to the Universities of Technology will without doubt catapult these institutions to play their expected roles of being the engine of technology development for this country and for Africa. The award of additional DST Chairs will put TUT on a trajectory of becoming an MIT of Africa.

Professor Helen Laburn
Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, University of the Witwatersrand

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) welcomes the commitment of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through its agency, the National Research Foundation (NRF), to expand the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI). Wits will seek to marry its own aspirations of building on its research strengths with the aspirations of the DST and NRF to increase the research and innovation intensity of the country. Wits’ aspirations include building six research intensive institutes that reflect the vital role that universities play in finding answers for the pressing problems that face our world, and particularly Africa.

These six institutes include the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience; Evolutionary Sciences; Mining, Minerals and Energy; Global Change; Cities and Population, Health and Society. It is clear from their titles that they are closely aligned with the DST 10 Year Innovation Plan and its five Grand Challenges. Wits would also like to commend the foresight of the SARChI planners for allocating 16 Chairs to the Social Sciences. Wits, being the leading research university in South Africa in the field of the Social Sciences, believes that no amount of technology innovation can benefit the people of South Africa without a thorough understanding of how it will impact on society, community and the individual, and vice versa.

Dr Peter Clayton
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Development, Rhodes University

The SARChI Chairs at Rhodes University have been an enormously positive investment in research output and the development of high level human capital. These chair holders are the most productive researchers at the institution, and they have the largest and most diverse groups of postgraduate students working with them. Their work has attracted international attention, and has brought serious value to the general scholarly environment at the university. They are wonderful role models who literally ooze passion for research — doing it, teaching it, promoting it, resourcing it, and applying it. The impact in terms of addressing social, environmental and economic challenges has already been substantial.

Our chairs are all in fields where direct application to social or environmental conditions is possible, and results are being taken up in such directly pertinent areas as medical science, water quality, environmental policy, and teaching methods for problem areas of the school system. The chair holders are top intellectuals, with world reputations, and as such attract regular offers from institutions around the world. The SARChI programme has been a big factor in retaining these outstanding contributors within the South African system. In all of these aspects, we would not be seeing these results without the resources provided by the SARChI.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement


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