International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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Are the existing research evaluation efforts in South Africa making a difference to the present higher education research environment?

Mochaki Deborah Masipa, Masipa Incorporated Attorneys, mochakids@gmail.com


The process of eradicating research inequalities between South African universities constitutes a dynamic environment. Despite all efforts established over the past twenty years to remedy dissimilarities, evidence reveals a continued pattern of research disparities, still favouring institutions previously advantaged by apartheid. This paper examined research evaluation efforts/exercises used in South African higher education, to establish/verify authenticity for use in bridging the inequality gap. There is evidence of situational responsibilities with sporadic research evaluations time and again that cannot corroborate or counter claims of equivalence across the university system. The paper further cautions dependency on regularly used efforts in depicting crucial problems in research-weak areas. The efforts are found to favour institutions with high research strength and do not yield results usable to determine reasons for continuous under-performance of the previously disadvantaged universities, and are therefore not valid for the environment. Similarly, quantitative data collected annually by government serves as performance indicators and do not reveal areas that require attention. Results of isolated in-depth self-evaluation cases by some universities cannot be relied upon for monitoring and/or detecting stagnation/improvements across the system. Whereas there is evidence of accruable benefits and improvements of systemic research gained through the use of research evaluation exercises in other countries, this paper finds no evidence of an exercise in South Africa aimed at systemic improvement of research. Such improvements, it is believed, would consequentially eliminate the chronic mismatches. The paper further identifies issues of methodological importance usable to reveal in-depth activities of research that may be considered and endorses recommendations for improvements. Although interventions would be based on lessons learnt from other countries, the paper suggests that the methodological issues be adjusted for local system improvement requirements. Follow-ups are necessary to support institutions and this paper emphasises the commitment of both the government and academics. As the evaluation in South Africa would be premised on a national imperative, it is axiomatic that all public higher education institutions should be evaluated. Effects of evaluation are usually observable over time, therefore, any delays in initiating such an exercise hinders the ‘parity’ process. A well planned and well-coordinated exercise can make a difference.

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Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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