Research capacity needs of academic staff in the humanities at the University of Zululand.
The advancement of knowledge through research has long been a major objective of higher education institutions. Most higher education institutions in South Africa strive for being 'excellent' in research. However, the 21st century has brought some challenges to institutions of higher education in South Africa. Among the challenges encountered include the increasing pressure on academic staff to either 'publish or perish', obtain funding and a rating from the National Research Foundation and the need to be promoted. Addressing these challenges calls for institutions of higher learning to reappraise their research and development strategies and create an environment in which research of all kinds can flourish. Building capacity in research is crucial, in that it reinforces the institution's ability to improve its overall impact on research. The present study was conducted to establish the research capacity needs of academic staff in the humanities at the University of Zululand. The study intended to identify research capacity strategies and policies in p lace at the University of Zululand, determine the level of research support available for academic staff, establish the level of research competencies and skills of academic staff, examine factors influencing research productivity and recommend possible solutions that could lead to the improvement of the research environment at the University of Zululand. Due to the nature of the problem investigated, the study used a descriptive survey research design, as well as a knowledge audit process to gain an understanding of research capacity needs of academic staff in the humanities at the University of Zululand. Self-administered questionnaires, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data. The collected data was analysed using the computer program SPSS and content analysis. The overall findings revealed that research support provided to academic staff was not adequate and that correlated with the relatively low research productivity in the humanities at the University of Zululand. The study also revealed that grants for research, v access and publication, research networking, sufficient work time, teaching loads, motivation and rewards were cited as the major factors that inhibited research productivity. The study found that the university did not have formal research policy and strategies in place. It was also found that the university did not have a formal research office or centre. Based on the findings, the study recommended that academic staff should insist that the institution ensures that policies on research are established and written in black and white. The study recommended that the institution should develop a research rapport with academic staff and provide more research support for academic s taff, if the university desires to be excellent in research. This would include the development of the research centre/office that would support academics . The study further recommended a similar study, but extended on a larger scale, to include more universities and make comparative analysis of research needs of academic staff.