R9mil boost to UJs Masters, PhD bursaries

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Johannesburg - PetroSA has injected R9 million into the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to establish a scholarship programme to fund black women post-graduate candidates in the levels of Masters and PhD studies.

Announcing the donation on Tuesday, PetroSA's Vice-President Operations Dan Marokane said the Next Generation Scholars programme was worth R3 million a year, over three years.

"It aims to change the face of postgraduate studies in the country by focusing on the value of research outputs in universities.

"Scholars are selected on grounds of their academic record, their skills for and inclination towards an academic career and whether their disciplines complement the UJ's research and academic niches," Mr Marokane said.

He said the donation was aimed at ensuring the university was able to retain skilled black graduates as academics.

More than 400 applications for master's and doctorates were processed at the university for the 2009 academic year. Of the applicants, 307 are black candidates, 107 are black females.

Successful master's students receive R80 000 per annum for two years and the master's bursary programme acts as a portal into the PhD programme, as the best 50 percent of the master's students will be admitted into the PhD programme.

PhD students will receive R130 000 per annum for three years, one year may be spent abroad at one of the university's partner universities.

Mr Marokane said the oil company was passionate about nurturing talent and innovation, adding that the partnership with the University would ensure that they increase the number of black and female academics in the technical and commercial disciplines.

This programme will not only award generous bursaries to post-graduate students, but also place a service obligations on them when they complete their studies," he said.

He further noted that the donation assists with the unearthing new talented researchers as several universities are already relying on post-retirement contracts with senior researchers to maintain research outputs.

University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor in Research, Innovation and Advancement, Proffesor Adam Habib said in the South African context, universities are seen as the traditional providers of the human and intellectual capital to meet society's future needs, be they in commerce and industry, government or in civil society.

"Universities are thus the primary, but by no means the only, incubators of future leadership and the providers of a skilled professional workforce, they are also a major source of new knowledge creation through research and innovation," Proffesor Habib said.

He added that as universities become more integrated, new demands are being made upon them.

He said the programme would provide a meaningful learning experience to the nation's brightest young minds and contribute significantly to the UJ's research capacity development of postgraduate students.

"Research is one of the cornerstones of a university and any university worth its salt must be research focused.

"It is encouraging to see PetroSA investing in the development of the nation's young researchers as this will translate our technological advances into socio-economic gains for the country," Proffesor Habib said.