SOUTH AFRICA: Poor performance rewarded with grants

Top research universities are upset about being "penalised for over-performing" by a government subsidy system designed to help former polytechnics and historically black institutions to catch up on research capacity, reports the Mail & Guardian. Academics and officials at three of the country's leading universities say they are unhappy about the Education Department's allocation this year of R174-million (US$23 million) in research development grants to several universities which did not meet their research targets in 2006.

The formula on which the development grant is based "has established a perverse incentive" and "rewards universities for performing poorly", said Professor Kit Vaughan, deputy dean of research at the University of Cape Town's faculty of health sciences.

All universities receive an annual subsidy based on their research outputs. Last year 17 institutions received R148 million in development grants above their research subsidies, from a total R1.38-billion in research subsidies. This year R1.5-billion was allocated based on the performance in 2006. Leading research institutions like Stellenbosch, UCT, Rhodes, Pretoria and the Free State, which exceeded their research output targets in 2005 and 2006, have received the basic subsidy only.

Full report on the Mail & Guardian site