UJ SARChI chair paves way for social development scholars in Sub-Saharan Africa

​​​​The Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, and the National Research Foundation (NRF) announced, the current Director of the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Prof Leila Patel, as the Chair for Welfare and Social Development.

This year, the appointments were exclusively made to women South African citizens and permanent residents, and Prof Patel was one of the five women who received the Chair for Welfare and Social Development at the University of Johannesburg. The rationale is that only 34% of the previous 143 Chair positions are held by female researchers nationally.

“I am honoured to be a SARChI chair holder. My main task will be to build research capacity among young researchers and to grow postgraduate studies in this field. Given the great need for research capacity in social development, I hope to contribute to growing a new generation of social development scholars in South Africa, but also in the Southern Africa region,” said Prof Patel.

Prof Patel has a wealth of research experience in social welfare, social policy and social work. Her appointment as the Chair in Welfare and Social Development is in the open category. She was given a Tier 1 award.

SARChI, made up of 42 Chairs, is an intervention by the government of South Africa, designed to significantly expand the scientific research base of the country in a way that is relevant to national development and in support of making South Africa an internationally competitive global knowledge economy.

Furthermore, Prof Patel believes that the Chair will build on the strengths of the UJ’s CSDA, specifically in the areas of poverty and vulnerability with a focus on women, children, youth, people with disabilities; in gender and social protection; monitoring and evaluation of developmental social welfare policies and services. “South Africa is a leader in social policy and development in the South. I hope that my research and the work that is being at the CSDA can contribute to new directions in social development in the region.”​

Research Chairs are nominated by universities, at the level of Associate Professor or full Professor, and are benchmarked nationally. Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor said that the review and selection process was rigorous and that the newly awarded Chairs will contribute to gender transformation in higher education.

The other women-led new chairs are Laser Applications in Health: Prof Heidi Abrahamse (Faculty of Health Sciences); South African Art and Visual Culture: Prof Brenda Schmahmann (Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture); Integrated Studies of Learning Language, Mathematics and Science in the Primary School: Prof Elizabeth Henning (Faculty of Education); and Industrial Development: Prof Fiona Tregenna (Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences).

The intention of these research Chairs is to attract and retain established researchers of high calibre, within the universities, recruiting individuals from within South Africa and globally with particular emphasis on the diaspora.

The five new chairs augment the following chairs at UJ: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy: Prof Chris Landsberg (Faculty of Humanities); Education and Care in Childhood: Prof Jace Pillay (Faculty of Education); Geometallurgy: Prof Fanus Viljoen (Faculty of Science); Indigenous Plant Use: Prof Ben Erik van Wyk (Faculty of Science); International Law: Prof Hennie Strydom (Faculty of Law); Social Change: Prof Peter Alexander (Faculty of Humanities); Nanotechnology for Water: Prof VK Gupta (Faculty of Science).

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