SciByte 5: 21 May 2022
Johann Mouton and Milandré van Lill
Doctoral education and training in any country is a lengthy and costly process. It is therefore imperative that policy makers (including funding agencies) are informed about the return on such a (public) investment. Graduate destination studies, or tracer studies, offer invaluable information about the contribution of the doctorate to a country’s knowledge production system and the socio-economic impact of doctoral training. Such studies, however, are particularly difficult to do especially where a national graduate database is lacking. Funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and managed by the Water Research Commission (WRC), SciSTIP undertook the first national tracer study of doctoral graduates in South Africa with the aim to trace the mobility, career paths and other attributes of a representative sample of PhD graduates from South African universities across a range of sectors and disciplines.
A national tracer study of doctoral graduates
The primary goal of the study was to trace the career paths of doctoral graduates who obtained their qualification from a South African university over the last two decades. A web survey with more than 6 400 completed questionnaires were produced and for the, for the first time, provide accurate, precise and generalisable information on a wide variety of issues: the employability of SA doctoral graduates, the financing of doctoral studies, the differences in the career trajectories between full-time and part-time studying students, the peculiar challenges facing post-doctoral fellows, the absorptive capacity of different employment sectors, the geographic mobility of these graduates as well as new insights into the perceived value and utility of pursuing doctoral studies. In this SciByte we address the question of how employable are South Africa’s doctoral graduates?