Arts Faculty produces the highest PhD output for 2013 academic year

On Thursday, 24 April, 26 PhD graduates obtained their doctoral degree from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, raising the Faculty’s PhD output for 2013 to 52 graduates – the highest amongst all the faculties for this academic year. It is the second year that the Faculty has produced more than 50 doctorates. In 2012, it awarded 56 doctoral degrees.

Arts Faculty produces the highest PhD output for 2013 academic year

Twenty-six PhD graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences received their degrees at the PhD graduation ceremony held in the Endler Hall today. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)

“We are now seeing a culture of success in our Faculty, which gains momentum with each passing year,” says Prof Johan Hattingh, the Dean of the Faculty.

According to Hattingh, the Faculty has over the last few years concentrated on creating an environment where research, in particular at doctoral level, can flourish.

This has included, amongst others, the provision of financial incentives to students who complete their degrees in three years and to supervisors who assist in this regard. The incentive is also offered to students who manage to publish their first subsidised journal article during or at the end of their PhD studies.

“Worldwide there has been concern over the standing of the humanities (including the social sciences) in society. There has been a general perception – justified or unjustified – that the humanities is in crisis and that this is reflected by a drop in applications and registrations for PhD studies and further exacerbated by the amount of time that doctoral candidates take on average to complete their studies, the high number of incomplete PhD degrees, and the lower salary levels that these graduates receive upon completion of their degrees. With our recent successes we are proving that the humanities is still alive and well – at least at Stellenbosch University,” says Hattingh.

He says that the humanities have an important and leading role to play within society.

“In a world which is increasingly dominated by a culture of consumerism and a multiplicity of crises, it has become even more important to think clearly and critically about those aspects of our society that undermine our humanity and the things that we can do to promote a peaceful, prosperous and humane future for us all.”

The increase in PhD graduates from the Faculty, he says, is also a good indicator of how the social sciences and humanities engage with the big issues in our society and make meaningful contributions towards resolving them.

“This confirms something about the value of the humanities and the social sciences and shows that it functions not only in service of other research areas or other sectors within society, but has value in itself by articulating, communicating and imagining what it can mean to be human in our time and in the context we live in.”

In addition to the general PhD incentives offered, says Hattingh, the Graduate School, partnerships with other African universities (via the Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA) network) and the excellent relationship that the Faculty has developed with a growing number of donors who have contributed towards PhD scholarships over the years, have strengthened its endeavours even further.

In the 2013 academic year, 21 of the 52 PhD graduates were enrolled via the Graduate School doctoral scholarship programme.

The Graduate School was established in 2010 and allocates scholarships to students to the value of R400 000 over three years. 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 and the Wallenberg Foundation have provided scholarships via the School and as from 2015, scholarships will also be provided by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. Partner universities also provide support by temporarily replacing staff members taking up study opportunities in Stellenbosch.

The partner universities are SU, the University of Botswana, Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Malawi, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the University of Nairobi in Kenya and the University of Ghana.

The universities all form part of the PANGeA network, which was officially established in November 2010 with the signing of a multilateral memorandum of understanding between the six founding universities. The aim of the network is to strengthen the development of higher education in Africa by creating opportunities for collaborative research and exchange among peer institutions, methodological development, full-time doctoral study and, in the longer term, the creation of joint doctoral degree programmes.