Title page for ETD etd-05152007-105619

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Madue, Stephens Mpedi
Email maduem@unisa.ac.za
URN etd-05152007-105619
Document Title The measurement of research output of public higher education institutions in South Africa : hurdle or handle?
Degree M.Ed (Education Management, Law and Policy)
Department Education Management and Policy Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof J D Jansen
  • higher education institutions
  • Research output
  • policy gap
  • policy studies
  • peer review
  • measurement
  • evaluation
  • reseach funding
  • research support
Date 2007-04-17
Availability unrestricted

The measurement of research output is common practice among public institutions internationally, and is increasingly contested and controversial. The term “research” is itself contested and can cover quite a wide range of activities, from carefully designed studies by independent, university-based researchers to analysis of data for particular administrative or political purposes to arguments for specific policy positions that may be more or less well grounded in evidence. Such measurement of research output is needed for decisions about professional staff and resource allocations. Measures of research productivity, covering both quantity and quality at national level, support government decisions on setting priorities and funding.

With increasing competitive allocation of research funding and declining public funds for higher education, institutions around the world are facing increasing pressure to produce research outputs. The revenue generated through published research has therefore come to assume greater and greater significance in institutional budgets and in academic reward systems. Moreover, research in public institutions is funded mainly according to the number and quality of publications of members of staff. On the other hand, the growing international trend towards ranking institutions in competitive terms has assigned considerable value to research output as a measure of institutional standing in the global marketplace.

What counts as an acceptable unit of measurement therefore becomes the subject of considerable debate within and outside institutions as they seek to enhance institutional standing and revenue. Whilst measurable output such as scientific publications and research reports are usually considered for government subsidy, it is difficult to accept that other output types such as patents, software, advisory work for government, consulting, or technical assistance, are not measurable, and do not have any relevance with respect to research subsidy.

This thesis was set out to critically examine the effects that current government policy on the measurement of research output of public higher education institutions will have on the performance of South African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The purpose of this study was to trace and explain the differential impact of new government policies on the measurement of institutional research output in four different university faculties. The study has highlighted key challenges facing the universities in implementing the new research subsidy policy; and made recommendations and proposals on how best can the policy be implemented with the view of increasing or improving the institutions’ research output.

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