Differing priorities: International research collaboration trends of South African universities, 2012-2021





International research collaboration, internationalisation, higher education, research, bibliometric analysis, South Africa


This study analyses international research collaboration (IRC) trends of South African public universities during the 2012-2021 period. While previous studies have explored IRC trends between South Africa and the rest of the world, there is a gap in literature when it comes to the analysis of institutional IRC trends. Using bibliometric data from Scopus, we analyse the internationally coauthored scholarly output of 24 public universities. Our focus is on the annual and overall institutional IRC trends; a comparison of IRC trends between different institutional types; and an analysis of institutional IRC trends broken down by world regions. Our findings show that the inequalities rooted in colonial and apartheid policies continue to be evident in South African higher education, and that most of the scholarly output through IRC is produced by historically white institutions (HWIs). The findings highlight that HWIs prioritise IRC with the Global North while neglecting research collaboration with the African continent and Global South. On the other hand, even though research output at historically black institutions (HBIs) is low, these institutions prioritise intra-Africa and South-South IRC. Our findings highlight the need for the government to move beyond the policy rhetoric and implement programmes that would enable HBIs to develop capacity to produce scholarly output through national and international collaboration. The government also needs to develop incentives for universities which are contributing to the expansion and strengthening of IRC within the African continent and Global South, in line with the national higher education and research priorities.


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How to Cite

Heleta, S., & Jithoo, D. (2023). Differing priorities: International research collaboration trends of South African universities, 2012-2021. Perspectives in Education, 41(4). https://doi.org/10.38140/pie.v41i4.7471



Research articles