09 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Charlene Stanley
International Studies Group excells
Some of the titles produced by the international postdoctoral fellows of the ISG, producing a significant income for this elite academic initiative.

The International Studies Group (ISG) at the UFS was established towards the end of 2012 with the aim of attracting and recruiting high-calibre postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world. Six years down the line, this elite academic initiative is both flourishing and generating significant income.

Earning revenue

ISG Head, Prof Ian Phimister, explains that in a harsh economic climate, it is vital – even for an academic operation – to justify its existence and have a business plan in place, apart from its primary function of making a major contribution to continental and international scholarship. “Of our 20 or so past and present postdoctoral fellows, all have published articles in first-class international journals, and 16 have secured book contracts with leading British publishers such as Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, and Cambridge University Press, as well as with top North American publishers, including Ohio and Nebraska University Presses, whose Africanist series are world-renowned,” he says. “As soon as the subsequent publication subsidies reach the UFS, the ISG will not only pay its way, but could actually create revenue for the university.”

This is because of an incentive introduced by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) together with the National Research Foundation (NRF) fifteen years ago, whereby research articles and publications are given monetary rewards. The aim is to encourage research-led teaching – a concept that underpins the best universities in the world. The highest value is attributed to a single-authored evidence-based monograph with a minimum of 80 000 words – of the kind produced by ISG members – with each book earning around R1,1 million. This amount, or close to it, covers more than the expenses of a post-doc’s three-year term; indeed, it generates a surplus, especially when combined with publications in accredited journals.

High productivity

The ISG’s high productivity record is further illustrated by the fact that by the end of 2019, 24 PhDs would have been awarded since the start of the programme, each earning a further R300 000 or so from Central Government. Each of them would take three to four years to complete, whereas the average period for completing a PhD in South Africa is usually seven years. 

Prof Phimister’s only regret is that the ISG has not been able to attract more black South African fellows. 
 
“We have many compelling success stories from the rest of the continent. However, smart and talented black South African students are all too often snapped up by the business and public sectors where they usually start earning a substantial income immediately.”

He hopes that this situation will soon be addressed through the growing academic status of the ISG. 

“About two thirds of our PhD students and postdoctoral fellows are from Africa and just over half are women. And they are all world-class.”


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