South Africa’s institutions of higher learning must recruit at least 1,200 new academics per annum to respond to historical backlogs for staff attrition and to accommodate planned growth, says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

Addressing doctoral students during the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) 2016 Doctoral Conference in Johannesburg last week, he urged doctoral students to take advantage of all available forms of support, including important programmes like the National Doctoral Workshop and Mentoring Programme offered through the NIHSS.

The key objective of the NIHSS Doctoral Schools Programme is to provide a hub for nurturing peer and mentor support networks for doctoral students and to facilitate ongoing intellectual support through various initiatives.

“Contribute to teaching wherever possible, as it is rewarding and gives you a broader perspective of your field. Although some of you will end up working in research institutes and other places, I hope that many of you are aiming for a career in one of our universities,” urged the Minister.

“Achieving quality in all the roles of a university (teaching, research and social engagement) depends to a large extent on the availability of adequate numbers of capable staff at our universities, who are fully representative of a democratic South Africa.”

He acknowledged that South Africa and Africa as a whole had a particular challenge to produce especially black scholars, as many of them were denied access to high level and high quality education under colonialism and apartheid.

He said it was also no secret that the higher education sector currently finds itself in somewhat of a crisis in relation to the size, composition and capacity of its academic staff.

“The challenge is multi?faceted, having to do with the slow pace of transformation, regeneration and change, the ageing workforce, developments in higher education worldwide that demand ever greater levels of expertise from staff, the relatively under qualified academic staff workforce, and low numbers of postgraduate students representing an inadequate pipeline for the recruitment of future academics.”

Nzimande said he was encouraged by the work of the institute in nurturing many important domains and aspects of African experience that are either subtly or very distinctly, different that need comparable research, analysis, theorisation and publication for use in primary, secondary and higher-education classrooms in South Africa, as well as greater continent and the rest of the world to reflect on.

“As such, the students’ abstracts and papers presents confidence that upon completion of their PhDs, these will provide unique African narratives, theories, perspectives and histories,” he said.