Research Support

Unisa makes a strong contribution to national research outputs and strives to maintain this into the future through comprehensive and well-planned research support that spans the research cycle and all stages of researchers’ careers.

Research Support Programmes (RSPs) 

Unisa invests in its researchers through a range of innovative research support programmes, encompassing researchers on all levels, from emerging researchers through to established and leading researchers. 

Academic Qualification Improvement Programme (AQIP)

In increasing the number of academics with doctoral degrees, the biggest challenge facing higher education institutions, including Unisa, is their inability to fund academic staff members’ study leave. AQIP is a response to this challenge. The main goal of the programme is to enable Unisa’s permanent academic staff to pursue doctoral degrees and, to a lesser extent, master’s degrees, on a full-time basis.

Postdoctoral Fellowship Support Programme (PFSP)

Individuals who have recently completed their doctoral studies are often well positioned to undertake postdoctoral research, enabling them to further improve their understanding of a specialist subject, develop advanced research skills and produce high-level research outputs.

Unisa’s PFSP focuses on recruiting candidates holding doctorates that are not older than five years and were attained at universities other than Unisa. Available postdoctoral positions are advertised annually.

Master’s and Doctoral Support Programme (MDSP)

The MDSP supports staff towards attaining master’s and doctoral degrees but differs from AQIP in several ways. Modelled on and designed to complement the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) Thuthuka programme, it provides support to staff members who do not qualify for NRF Thuthuka support because they are (a) working on a master’s degree, (b) above the age of 45 or (c) not South African citizens.

Open Distance Learning Research Support Programme (ODL-RSP)

Teaching and Learning in the ODL environment is very different from that in contact higher education and it is important for Unisa to generate high-quality research in this field. The ODL-RSP provides support to ODL researchers so as to increase skills transfer, research quality and capacity building and encourage professional development in ODL research.  Ultimately, the programme aims to support permanent employees to produce accredited ODL research outputs and to mentor, support and develop junior researchers in the ODL-RSP group.

Research Professors Programme (RPP)

Unisa introduced the academic rank of research professor to serve as a mechanism for, among other things, increasing dedicated research and innovation participation, increasing specialised expertise and improving research outputs. Research professors are appointed in three-year cycles. 

VisionKeepers Programme (VKP)

As the university currently faces the major challenge of attracting, developing and retaining young researchers, the goal of the VKP is to support research excellence by providing funding to emerging researchers to pursue research, produce high-quality, accredited research publications and increase the success rate of NRF rating and external grant applications by working with experienced research mentors from institutions other than Unisa.

Women in Research (WiR) Support Programme

Unisa is committed to achieving gender equality in research by increasing the number of permanent female employees producing quality research publications and becoming NRF-rated researchers. The WiR programme provides support to permanent female researchers with a view to producing accredited research outputs and mentoring, supporting and developing junior researchers.

Funding is provided for direct research costs for a maximum of 36 consecutive months, with funding allocated annually, based on satisfactory progress. Preference is given to researchers from designated groups. However, researchers from non-designated groups are not excluded.

Principal’s/Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research

The Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Research is the second-highest prize for research at Unisa after the Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in Research. Both accolades are aimed at acknowledging research excellence and research performance.

The Principal’s Award is targeted at young and developing researchers (not older than 35 years) or groups who have achieved academic research excellence of the highest quality as published in the preceding two years. Traditionally awarded bi-annually, it alternates with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, which is targeted at proven researchers.

From 2021 onwards, the Chancellor’s Award and Principal’s Award will both be awarded every year and not on alternating years as in the past.

Women in Research: Emerging Researcher Prize

The Women in Research: Emerging Researcher Prize is presented to women staff members who have, in the past five years, advanced their careers by acquiring a doctorate and producing research outputs.

Women in Research: Youngest Female Doctoral Graduate Prize

The Youngest Female Doctoral Graduate Prize is presented to the youngest woman staff member to attain a doctoral degree during the previous year’s graduation ceremony.

The award reflects the importance of increasing the number of women doctoral graduates.

Last modified: 2023/08/07