In 2010, according to several significant external measures, UCT was considered a leader in the global knowledge community. The University was ranked 107 overall in the Times Higher Education Ranking, 163 in the QS Ranking and 219 in the ShanghaiJiaoTong Ranking. While each ranking has its own idiosyncrasies and only delivers part of the picture of an institution’s excellence, they do provide a solid benchmark for success that we can be proud of. In addition, the Department of Higher Education and Training’s latest report on research output shows that UCT now produces the highest number of accredited research outputs of any university in South Africa. UCT was awarded 1188.22 units – a 9% increase on the previous year. This is a tribute to the talent that we have assembled at the University and a recognition of the superb contribution of the researchers and academics who work here.

However, there is no room for complacency. The worst effect that our high position in the international rankings and good local performance could have would be to induce a belief that there is not much room for improvement in UCT’s research performance. Fortunately, there is consensus that UCT has not reached the limit of its potential and that there are more heights to scale.

To this end we held a major Research Indaba in May 2010 to take stock of UCT’s global research standing and understand how to benchmark ourselves against international standards as well as to explore how to improve our research co-operation with universities outside of South Africa. In addition, building on work started in 2009, each faculty at UCT continued to develop detailed plans during 2010 to enhance the quality and impact of their research. These plans emphasise each faculty’s commitment to playing in a much higher league of global research. The Faculty of Health Sciences set the gold standard by commissioning an international panel of scientists to review its research performance.

Of course, good research can only be done by good researchers. Ensuring that UCT has a solid pipeline of emerging researchers is key to the future success of the institution. During 2010 we agreed the details of an ambitious project that aims to create the next generation of academics in Africa to feed this pipeline. The project was developed in collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, in co-operation with the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Ghana (Legon) and Makerere University in Uganda. Forty-six selected PhDs and postdoctoral research fellows will be trained in Economics, Civil Engineering, Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, and Molecular and Cell Biology. Starting in 2011, this project will also enable UCT to play a meaningful role in reviving the African academy and to build our profile in that area.

In our 2009 research report, we highlighted twin goals of greater impact and greater engagement and expressed our ambition to become a model of a developing-world university. We remain committed to producing high-quality research that is socially responsive and meets international ethics standards. 

In 2010 we took an important new step towards greater engagement with the establishment of the UCT Knowledge Co-Op. This is an exciting collaborative project between various departments at UCT and the City of Cape Town that aims to build a bridge between the University and society by enabling wider access to the University’s research, knowledge and expertise. Supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s strategic fund, and based on the ‘shop-front’ or ‘science-shop’ idea in other countries, the project breaks from traditional structures and provides a forum where NGOs and other civil society groupings can work with the University to solve problems.The two-year pilot was launched in February 2010.

During 2010, UCT also launched a pilot project to investigate the need for, and scope of, an Office of Research Integrity (ORI). To maintain our standing as a globally competitive research-led university, UCT must demonstrate and provide evidence of its commitment to providing enhanced support for ethics compliance in research. In the last Higher Education Quality Committeeaudit of UCT, this was flagged as an important area for development. Ongoing efforts are under way to provide researchers with guidance to meet international  guidelines for best practice of ethics in research.

I believe we are working harder and more smartly than ever before to build UCT’s research culture and output which in turn will enable us to compete and contribute more effectively, both locally and internationally. It is evident from the pages that follow that research is flowering at UCT in every faculty.

As we move forward we are grateful for the continued commitment and enthusiasm of the UCT research community and are proud to showcase their achievements here.

Professor Danie Visser
Deputy Vice-Chancellor


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