Who gives the money and where it goes

February 24, 1995

South African universities and technikons conduct around R700 million (Pounds 108 million) of research and development a year, 80 per cent of which comes from the tertiary sector's general funds, according to the Foundation for Research Development.

Higher education undertakes a quarter of all research and development, which in 1991 cost the country R2.8 billion.

Direct government support of research and development performed at universities has declined: in 1977 the government contributed 20 per cent of funding for university research but by 1991 this figure had fallen to 10 per cent, while the contribution of business had rose to 10 per cent.

The foundation, a parastatal council which supports tertiary research and education in science, engineering and technology, has published comprehensive statistics in South Africa in a report titled SA Science and Technology Indicators 1993.

It reveals that, in real terms, tertiary education expenditure on research and development increased by a biennial average of 10 per cent between 1983 and 1991. The business sector share of support showed the greatest biennial increase of 20 per cent, while the government's share of spending dropped.

Universities conduct 99 per cent of all research and development in the tertiary sector. The relatively small proportion undertaken by technikons is a source of concern as it appears that the development of a research culture at technikons is not being encouraged by present policies.

The main research universities in 1991 were Cape Town with 13.8 per cent, Pretoria 13.6 per cent, Wi****ersrand 12.6 per cent, Stellenbosch 10.7 per cent, Natal 10.3 per cent and the Orange Free State 9.6 per cent. These six universities were responsible for more than 70 per cent of research undertaken at universities, the report says.

The application of research funds by universities in South Africa was in line with trends worldwide, with more than half the funds devoted to basic research. Universities conduct 66 per cent of basic research performed by all sectors.

The amount spent on applied research showed, however, a gradual increase from 37 per cent in 1983 to 40 per cent in 1991, as industry increased its contribution to research and development in the tertiary sector.

More than four-fifths of South Africa's research and development activity is in the natural sciences and engineering. These funds were allocated to 15 main research fields, with the largest proportion, 34 per cent, allocated to engineering. Agriculture, biology and forestry each claimed 14 per cent of spending in 1991, chemistry 7.9 per cent, technolgy and other applied sciences 7.6 per cent and medical sciences 6.9 per cent.

Until 1985 scant attention was paid to the social sciences and humanities, which remain less than 20 per cent of the total.

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