29 September 2021

François van Schalkwyk, Nico Cloete and Milandré van Lill recently published an article in the South African Journal of Science as part of SciSTIP’s ongoing research on doctoral education.

The production and reproduction of knowledge are important components of national development. As student mobility increases, so does the national diversity of students as they seek to further their postgraduate studies at the limited number of research universities in Africa.

The brain drain perspective on migration and development takes mainly the perspective of the origin country into consideration. Migration and the loss of high-level skills are seen as detrimental to the development prospects of the country of origin. The brain circulation perspective moves the discussion forward by suggesting that there are residual returns to the country of origin.

However, relatively little attention has been given to the impact of knowledge migrants on the host nation when the host is facing its own post-colonial development challenges. This is the dilemma facing South Africa as a hub for doctoral students from the rest of Africa: attracting top doctoral students from the rest of the continent to contribute to the country’s knowledge capacity but at the expense of developing local talent, thereby setting up a complex tension between underdevelopment and development.

In their article, the authors establish whether South Africa is maintaining its position as a PhD hub on the African continent and explore the extent to which the brain circulation argument holds up in the African context.

They suggest that, given the current policy environment in South Africa, brain circuity is a more likely outcome, where brain circuity describes the flow of knowledge characterised by indirection and undesirable intricacy.

Download and read the article