Page 1 - Faculty of Commerce

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FACULTY OF commerce
Dean’s report
Increasing research and post-
graduate output is the Commerce
Faculty’s top strategic priority. Our
basic output statistics for 2011 are
the highest in the faculty’s history,
and show a 26 percent increase in
peer-reviewed, accredited journal
articles over the previous figure.
Behind this significant and continuing
improvement lie some important changes in
structures and focus.
The faculty is striving to organise itself into ‘wall to
wall’ research units, each led by one or more senior
scholars and including mid-career and junior academics,
postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows.
One such new group, the Research Unit in Behavioural
Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN) came into
official being in 2011. Three others are moving through the
process of being accredited by the University Research
Committee in 2012. Research units provide sites of
mentoring in research skills for younger academics,
anchor postgraduate theses and dissertations in the
ongoing work of teams, so as to bring all the faculty’s
human capital resources to bear on supervision, and
increase output by promoting co-authorship.
The faculty aims to continue its history of strong research
of national importance, conducted in partnership with the
public sector. The National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS),
being conducted by our Southern African Labour and
Development Research Unit (SALDRU), is an outstanding
example of such work. But now, the faculty additionally
seeks to expand its partnerships with private sector
corporations to achieve a balanced range of activity that
responds to the knowledge needs of all the key drivers of
the economy. Each of the research units mentioned above
is in the process of assembling a corporate advisory
board to assist in project identification, data access, and
fund-raising. The faculty’s current fund raising campaign
is aimed at building capacity in the research units. In
2011, 20 leading South African corporations made major
donations to boost the faculty’s capacity for research
and postgraduate training. We continue to reach out to
prospective corporate research partners, and will work
to deepen and entrench relationships with our current
partners, as our leading strategic objective of 2012.
In 2011, the faculty created a new role
of research leader. This allows senior
researchers, or junior researchers
who have been unusually speedy in
establishing their reputations, to trade
off someundergraduate teachingduties
for additional obligations in forming
their colleagues and postgraduate
supervisees into co-ordinated groups
to apply for grants, build private or
public sector partnerships, and find
new funding sources with which to
grow new academic talent.
The last goal is especially important. South Africa has a
marked shortage of excellent business researchers, whose
work will be critical for increasing the level of innovation
among goods and services producers, and in growing
national productivity for global competitiveness. Studies
around the world have shown that among the most important
drivers of economic growth are strong academic research
hubs that work in close contact with innovative firms. The
Faculty of Commerce is among the very few institutions in
South Africa that can realistically aspire to be the centre of
such a hub in the short to medium term. So, our mission in
growing the quality and quantity of our research capacity is
of national economic importance.
We can fulfill this mission only to the extent that we
are successful in attracting more young South Africans
from formerly disadvantaged backgrounds into academic
careers. Thus transformation objectives do not compete
with research excellence objectives; they are essential
complements. Businesses urgently need to foster an
atmosphere of excitement around commercial research
among young people from formerly disadvantaged
backgrounds. The faculty is the ideal site for building
this atmosphere. The majority of our best graduates will
always want to go directly into business careers. But if
we can use the lure of stimulating research teams and
working with corporate partners to inject knowledge that
fuels innovation into the national environment to convince
a small proportion of our brightest youngsters to pursue
degrees beyond the BCom and BBusSci, then we can
make our strongest possible contribution to steering South
Africa towards the high growth regime we need to beat
back poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The epicentre of research output in the faculty in 2011
remained, as it has been for many years, our Africa-leading
School of Economics. The school’s network of relationships
with the South African government departments of Finance
and Trade and Industry, with the World Bank and the IMF, and
with collaborators at first-tier universities abroad, continues to
push the school’s profile upward. Our status as the African
Faculty of