In 2019 the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in South Africa evaluated the research output of local universities. An article in the Mail & Guardian by Tawana Kupe has analysed the report.
The report finds that a group of six universities is in the lead for quantity of research: University of Kwazulu-Natal, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, and the University of the Witwatersrand. These account for 60% of South Africa’s research publication units. Another eight universities account for 30%.
The article notes that the DHET is suspicious of the quality of some of the reported research. For example, one university reported 113 conference papers in 2017 by a single author.
Overall, the research output of South African universities has improved considerably over the last few years although it remains concentrated in the leading research universities rather than comprehensive or technological universities. However, it seems that there flaws in the current assessment of research. It does not focus on social impact, the output of large research teams or transdisciplinary research that addresses issues such as public health, climate change, or poverty.
The article concludes that although the current assessment process contains valuable data it should not be seen as a valid university ranking system.