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Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Higher Education – Science and Engineering Education

About us

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a public research university located in Cape Town, South Africa, with a tradition of academic excellence and commitment to social change.The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) is a new research centre focused on higher education and its future, sponsored by the ESRC and HEFCE in the UK. UCT is one of eight international partners of CGHE, engaged in research into undergraduate student learning.

The project

This CGHE project under the theme ‘Knowledge, Curriculum and Student Agency’ sets out to explore students’ experiences of studying Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the UK and South Africa. It will track a cohort of students in each of these disciplinary areas across their undergraduate degrees in two UK and two South African universities. The research will include interviews with students and academics, document analysis, recording of taught sessions, and a student survey.   The project is a joint project with teams located at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Lancaster University, UK, under the overall leadership of Prof Paul Ashwin. The South African project has supplementary funding from the NRF under PI Prof Jenni Case and is coordinated by Dr Reneé Smit at the University of Cape Town working together with Dr Margaret Blackie from Stellenbosch University.

The principal research questions are as follows:

  • What forms of knowledge do students have access to through the curricula of their Chemistry and Chemical Engineering degrees?
  • How are students’ identities transformed by engaging with this knowledge?
  • How do students transform these knowledge and curricula through their engagement with it?
  • How does the level of engagement of students as co-producers impact on the transformational potential of courses?
  • What are the institutional, disciplinary and national differences in these processes and outcomes?

Call for applications

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow based at the University of Cape Town. The successful candidate will be working closely with Dr Reneé Smit as well as with the rest of the research team in this project. They will undertake predominantly qualitative with some quantitative research in South Africa.  This will include reviewing and critically analysing literature, preparing analytical and summative papers, analysing existing data sets, preparing new data sets (involving liaising with co-researchers at the research sites, conducting interviews, administering surveys, and sourcing and collating documents), writing up results of research, including their policy implications, in reports and academic publications. They will also contribute to and help organise public seminars, national meetings, dissemination events and conferences. This position will also give the opportunity to work closely with researchers based in the UK.


Applicants must have achieved their doctoral degree within the past 5 years.

Applicants may not previously have held full-time permanent professional or academic posts.

The successful candidate will be required to comply with the University’s approved policies, procedures and practices for the postdoctoral sector: https://www.uct.ac.za/research/pgfo/about/.

Fellowship recipients are entitled to take on part-time employment for a maximum of 12 hours a week outside the research project.

Value and Tenure

The value of the Fellowship is R240 000 per annum and the fellowship is tenable for a total of two years subject to satisfactory academic progress. Progress reviews are conducted every six months and an end of year review takes place in order to confirm renewal for the following year.

The fellowship is compliant with the SARS policies /rules and is therefore exempt from taxation.

Academic Criteria


  • A  PhD in a relevant field of study, for example Education, Sociology, Psychology or a cognate discipline.
  • You would be considered if you will graduate within six months of starting the Fellowship.

Suitable candidates will have:

  • Demonstrable interest in current academic research and policy issues relating to the themes of the project.
  • Successfully conducted qualitative research in the field.
  • Carried out advanced research including a literature review, conducting desk research and semi-structured interviews and data collection.
  • A high level of numeracy and familiarity with quantitative information.
  • An ability to handle, manage and analyse large amounts of empirical research data.
  • Ability to collaborate as part of a team including with colleagues from a wide range of academic institutions and non-academic partner organisations.
  • An ability to work effectively, responsibly and independently, and to work under pressure.
  • Excellent organisational ability, including the ability to manage time effectively and to prioritise tasks.
  • Highly-developed computer skills and competence in online research tools.

The successful applicant should be available to commence with the Fellowship by the latest 1 July 2018.

To apply please e-mail to following to Dr Reneé Smit by noon on Monday 26 February 2018, clearly indicating “Postdoctoral Fellowship application” in the subject line:

  • A letter of application including your area of expertise, research interests and experience, in general and described particularly in relation to the research project.Please provide a clear argument as to how you meet the requirements outlined above.
  • CV including list of publications / scholarly outputs
  • Copies of academic transcripts
  • Names and contact details of at least two academic referees who have taught, supervised or worked alongside you.

Eligible and complete applications will be considered by the project team.

The University of Cape Town reserves the right to:

  • Disqualify ineligible, incomplete and / or inappropriate applications;
  • Change the conditions of award or to make no awards at all.