National Research Foundation renews Chair in the Economics of Social Policy
The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences of Stellenbosch University is proud to announce the renewal of its Research Chair in the Economics of Social Policy.
The chair, which is held by Professor Servaas van der Berg and hosted by the Department of Economics, will receive funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for a further five-year period.
The renewal of the chair is a feather in the cap of a man whose work has a significant impact on South Africans’ understanding of poverty and education in the country. Over the past five years, Professor Van der Berg has led a strong team of researchers and postgraduate students in producing research that is undeniably relevant to the social and economic challenges faced by the country.
The research chair has contributed towards funding and opportunities for 11 Honours students, 15 Masters students, 10 PhD students and one post-doctoral fellow. In particular, the chair has allowed Prof Van der Berg to mentor a large number of students both male and female, and of all race groups, to progress to the level of PhD. In 2010, one of his PhD students, Carlos Maia, won a national research competition in Mozambique (his native country), and a number of his students have won scholarships to pursue part of their studies abroad. Amongst other studies, the research group has looked at the effects of the international economic crisis on child poverty in South Africa; investigated to what extent the funds allocated to Early Childhood Development are actually improving the outcomes for children in schools and crèches; completed a costing exercise to assess the fiscal viability of the mooted National Health Insurance plan; and produced a basic services index to gauge whether municipalities have been able to improve municipal service provision.
Perhaps the most telling achievement is the fact that the research chair has generated more than R10 million in additional funding against a backdrop of research that is often critical of current policies and the status quo in the economy. The work of the chair is valued by stakeholders across the public, private and non-governmental sectors. The list of funders includes local and national government, the private sector, international financial institutions and the United Nations.
It is this combination of relevance and research that the NRF saw fit to reward with a renewal of funding. In its submission of reasons for renewing the chair, the NRF cited that its student support and training have been impressive, with a high Masters and PhD graduation rate; that research achievements have been significant and are being used to inform the development of social policy; and that the chair has fostered strong collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Umalusi (the educational certification body), and the World Bank.
The Research Chair in the Economics of Social Policy is funded by the National Research Foundation under its South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI). SARChI is a flagship initiative by government that seeks to bolster research and innovation, and enhance the capacity of high quality postgraduate students. Since its inception in 2005, government has invested over R1,1 billion in SARChI.