Research opportunities

Despite the impetus to direct funding towards post-apartheid development imperatives like housing and basic service supply, the government is now prioritising research.

Most research capacity in the higher education sector is located in the country’s top 12 universities, but the National Research Foundation is spending R43-million each year in an equity drive to boost research activity in the historically disadvantaged institutions. (Image: School Moves)

Brand South Africa Reporter

After years of academic isolation, the country’s higher education institutions have eagerly rejoined the international research environment.

The country puts out more research than any other on the continent, generated by 12 500 academics and as many researchers based at research councils, institutes and companies. There are hundreds of researchers who have achieved international recognition as leaders in their fields of research.

Most research capacity in the higher education sector is located in the country’s top 12 universities, but the National Research Foundation is spending R43-million each year in an equity drive to boost research activity in the historically disadvantaged institutions. Altogether, the higher education sector contributes 34 percent of the country’s research and development initiatives.

Despite the impetus to direct funding towards post-apartheid development imperatives like housing and basic service supply, the government is now prioritising research. In 2001, state funding for research increased by 15%.

The challenges presented by a developing country combined with first-world teaching and research facilities at some of our universities and technikons, provide unique opportunities for study and research in South Africa. Many local institutions are working in collaboration with foreign institutions, and many academics from abroad spend periods of time here.

Applied research projects

Thrip. Higher education institutions are also forging links with private companies on applied research projects. The government’s huge Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (Thrip) embraces government, industry, science councils and higher education institutions in joint ventures to develop new technology and skills for the country.

Innovation Fund. The government has also set up an Innovation Fund, which received R125-million for 2000 – 2001. The initiative encourages multi-disciplinary collaboration on projects addressing major social and economic problems. Countless opportunities exist for students to embark on academic study and research that has a real impact on the broader society.

Statutory research bodies

South Africa has eight statutory science councils through which the government commissions research for social, scientific and technological development. Each has its own web site, offering a huge range of science-, technology- and industry-related information, archives, databases, services, products, funding and other facilities.

National Research Foundation. The NRF promotes research through funding, human resource development and the provision of research facilities in order to facilitate knowledge creation, innovation and development in all areas of science and technology. The NRF’s web site has plenty of information on research and funding opportunities in the higher education sector.

  • For specific information on bursaries and scholarships administered by the NRF, click here.
  • To access research funds for research to be conducted at historically black universities, click here.

Agricultural Research Council. The Agricultural Research Council promotes agriculture and related sectors through research, technology development and technology transfer.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The CSIR is the largest scientific and technological research, development and implementation organisation in Africa.

Council for Geosciences. The Council for Geosciences provides geoscience information and services for the benefit of the people of South Africa.

Human Sciences Research Council. The HSRC facilitates problem-solving and enhances decision-making through research excellence in the human sciences.

Medical Research Council. The MRC improves South Africans’ health status and quality of life through relevant and excellent health research.

Mintek. Mintek is one of the world’s leading technology providers, specialising in mineral processing, extractive metallurgy and related fields.

South African Bureau of Standards. The SABS is responsible for the development and publication of standards for products and services.

Other research organisations

Africa Institute of South Africa. The AISA Promotes research on Africa and aims to further the aims of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).

Southern African Association for Institutional Research. The SAAIR furthers research and development in the context of research units in higher education institutions.

South African Association for Research and Development in Higher Education. The SAARDHE aims to further research in higher education with grants and awards.

For more information on research opportunities, visit Study South Africa.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.