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Developing a Research Culture in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Central University of Technology, Free State: Implications for Knowledge Management

Authors: Mpho A. Mbeo, Patient Rambe


The 13th year of the Central University of Technology, Free State’s (CUT) transition from a vocational and professional training orientation institution (i.e. a technikon) into a university with a strong research focus has neither been a smooth nor an easy one. At the heart of this transition was the need to transform the psychological faculties of academic and research staffs compliment who were accustomed to training graduates for industrial placement. The lack of a research culture that fully embraces the strong solid ethos of conducting cutting-edge research needs to be addressed. The induction and socialisation of academic staff into the development and execution of cutting-edge research also required the provision of research support and the creation of a conducive academic environment for research, both for emerging and non-research active academics. Drawing on ten cases, consisting of four heads of departments, three seasoned researchers, and three novice researchers, this study explores the challenges faced in establishing a strong research culture at the university. Furthermore, it gives an account of the extent to which the current research interventions have addressed the perceivably “missing research culture”, and the implications of these interventions for knowledge management. Evidence suggests that the capability of an ideal institutional research environment, consisting of mentorship of novice researchers by seasoned researchers, balanced effort into teaching and research responsibilities, should be supported by strong research-oriented leadership. Furthermore, recruitment of research passionate staff, adoption of a salary structure that encourages the retention of excellent scholars should be matched by a coherent research incentive culture to growth research publication outputs. This is critical for building new knowledge and entrenching knowledge management founded on communities of practice and scholarly networking through the documentation and communication of research findings. The study concludes that the multiple policy documents set for the different domains of research may be creating pressure on researchers to engage research activities and increase output at the expense of research quality.

Keywords: Central University of Technology, performance, publication, research culture, university.

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