The National Development Plan has set a target of 100 000 additional PhDs by 2030 to improve research and innovation capacity in South Africa. In order to reach this target, a total of 6 000 PhDs per annum needs to be produced. To live up to the NDP’s expectations, Unisa continues to play a significant role to meet the targets. In the 2016 autumn and spring graduations, Unisa’s College of Education produced 64 doctoral degrees, which constitute 26% of the 241 doctoral degrees conferred by the university.
Head of Graduate Studies and Research in the College, Prof Marietha Nieman attributes the success to a number of interventions such as workshops and the annual master’s and doctoral student conference.
“The M&D student conference is our flagship project and the feedback that we get from students is very positive. The conference is a platform that we use to motivate our students to complete their studies and they also get an opportunity to network with their peers and to some extent, enable them to inspire each other to persevere with their studies,” said Nieman.
The conference is the brainchild of Sello Makgakga, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics Education and a PhD candidate. According to Nieman, one of the unique features of the conference is that it’s structured as a mini-supervision session which affords students an opportunity to present their work and get feedback from experienced supervisors.
“Most students are in most cases inexperienced presenters. The conference affords them the opportunity to present their work in a safe environment, where the purpose is to assist them and to provide constructive feedback, rather than criticising their work. This conference does not only provide students with a platform for their academic voice to be heard; it also prepares them to present with confidence at future conferences,” concluded Nieman
*By Achieve Ubisi