Arts Faculty awards 26 doctorates at December graduation

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences recently conferred 26 PhD degrees at the December graduation ceremony held specifically for doctoral graduates in the Endler Hall of the Conservatorium. This is the first year that Stellenbosch University (SU) has organised separate graduation ceremonies for PhD graduates.

The Arts Faculty recently rewarded 26 PhD degrees to doctoral candidates. 9SS

The Arts Faculty recently awarded 26 PhD degrees to doctoral candidates. (Hennie Rudman, SSFD)

“I am very proud of each PhD student that has graduated today, and would like to congratulate them on this achievement following all the hard work they have put in over the past years. I also would like to congratulate and thank all of the supervisors and co-supervisors for all the effort they have put in to repeat this extraordinary achievement,” Prof Johan Hattingh, Dean of the Faculty said after the event.

“With a proven track record, and based on the dedication and expertise of a number of dynamic research groups within the Faculty, it is not an exaggeration to claim that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Stellenbosch University has now taken up the leading position on the continent of Africa in successfully producing PhD graduates. The importance, however, does not lie in in the number of PhD graduates, but in the difference this growing number of graduates will make to society by providing high level expertise in the humaniora and social sciences – which is essential for the development and democratisation of Africa, where human dignity, justice, and social security should feature as core values.”

This is the second year in a row that the Faculty has delivered so many doctorates. While the final figure for the 2013 academic year will only be available early in 2014, it is expected that the figure will be on par or higher than 2012. The Faculty delivered 56 degrees during the 2012 academic year. Of those 56 graduates, 19 were registered in 2010 and 2011 for doctoral studies via the Graduate School and four of those graduates completed their degrees over a period of two years. The four returned to SU this year to focus on converting their research into journal articles for publication.

The Graduate School allocates scholarships to students to the value of R400 000 over three years in addition to offering research and mobility support. Seed funding for the establishment of the initiative came from the HOPE Project, however, over the years additional financing for scholarships and the day-to-day operations of the Graduate School are covered by the Faculty. Donors such as the Carnegie Corporation of New York have also provided scholarships specifically for candidates from Ghana and Makerere universities, while partner universities provide support for candidates taking up study opportunities.

Partner universities are all part of the African network, the Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics (PANGEA), which was officially established in November 2010 with the signing of a multilateral memorandum of understanding between the founding universities. They are SU, the University of Botswana, Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Malawi, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. The University of Ghana joined the network at a later stage.

At the beginning of 2013, the Graduate School had registered 88 PhD candidates from 14 African countries (Angola, Botswana, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and of those, a third are females. The students are enrolled across 16 of the 18 departments in the Faculty as well as the research unit, the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST).

The School focuses on four major objectives:

  • strengthening and advancing world-class doctoral training and scholarship on the African continent by offering a partially-structured, full-time, residential doctoral scholarship programme over three years,
  • within an interactive learning environment,
  • by concentrating on multi-disciplinary research themes which address problems relevant to Africa’s development and with a specific focus on the international development goals,
  • while enhancing academic collaboration and mobility in partnership with leading African universities who are part of the PANGEA network.

The programme is also the first of its kind in Africa in the humanities, arts and social sciences.

According to Dr Cindy Steenekamp, the newly appointed Director of the Graduate School from 2014 onwards, an interactive learning environment is created by “providing broad-based research and scholarship support through weekly seminars and training programmes offered by the School; encouraging participation in regular scholarly activities such as guided postgraduate, departmental or theme-orientated seminars, reading groups, conferences or specific training modules offered at SU; regular meetings between students and supervisors; and the submission of regular student progress reports to the Graduate School office”.

PhD candidates choose dissertation topics that fall under the eight research themes – Democratisation, poverty and conflict; Land, environment and society in Africa; Transitions and translations: Africa in local and global imaginaries; The arts as knowledge; Science, technology and society; Consolidated geographical information technology application; Language, culture and communication; and Public mental health – within the Graduate School and which are all related to the international development goals.

MORE INFORMATION:

For more information about the Graduate School and PANGeA visit  www.sun.ac.za/graduateschool. Information on the HOPE Project, can be found at www.thehopeproject.co.za.

Photo: Here are the Faculty’s 26 PhD graduates who recently received their degree at the December graduation. (Hennie Rudman, SSFD)