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Postdoctoral Fellows

The University of the Witwatersrand is a highly ranked research intensive university working across a wide range of knowledge fields.

It has five faculties that focus on the Humanities (including the Social Sciences); Commerce, Law and Management; Engineering and the Built Environment; Health Sciences and the Natural Sciences. Research intensity comes from a cross cutting focus on research activities. Consequently, the University encourages postdoctoral research and therefore offers a large number of Postdoctoral Fellowships annually. Currently, Wits is implementing a plan to grow its research intensity over the next 10 years and part of this plan is to grow the number of Postdoctoral Fellows to more than 200.

Besides boosting the research output of the University the purpose of a Postdoctoral Fellowship is to assist with the professional development of recent PhD graduates preparing them for an academic career.  To some extent it can be considered as a two year academic ‘apprenticeship’ or internship.  While undertaking the internship the Postdoctoral Fellow will undertake independent research as well as participate in the academic activities of the hosting School.

Should you take up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wits you could expect to:

  • Develop research independence under the guidance of an academic mentor (or host);
  • Produce research outputs and so strengthen your CV;
  • Assist with some postgraduate student supervision.

On the other hand the University has specific expectations of its Postdoctoral Fellows.  Although these expectations will vary from place to place in the University, the common ones include:

  • An average peer reviewed research output[1] of at least two publications per annum during your stay. It is understood that most of the publications will not arise in year one. This implies that year two of your Fellowship should see four or more publications.
  • Furthermore, these outputs should be published internationally. Ideally, the research should be published in journals that are found in the ISI index of journals. If there is a particular reason why it is more appropriate to publish the work in local journals, then they should be ‘accredited journals’. Please visit the following website to read more about ‘accredited journals’ and the government subsidy they earn for the university:
  • A contribution to the research ethos of the School or Institute in which you are based. This contribution should come in the form of willing participation in staff meetings, debates about research, research seminars (especially those involving postgraduate students), etc. It is important that you contribute to the academic programme by putting forward your ideas and thinking.
  • A contribution to the operation of a research laboratory (where appropriate). This contribution may involve calibrating instruments, advising postgraduate students on operating conditions, giving instrument training, commissioning preventative maintenance, etc.
  • On occasions going beyond the normal expectations of a Postdoctoral Fellow (within reason) to make a contribution towards the University and its goal to become an internationally acclaimed research intensive university.

How to apply for a Postdoctoral Fellowship

The best way for you to get started is to find a host who is prepared to mentor you during the Fellowship. This means finding a Wits academic who works in a similar field of research to you.  It helps to choose someone you know or at least you know their work. Assuming, however, you do not know any of the academics at Wits the best way to speak to possible hosts is to scan through the Wits website (www.wits.ac.za) looking particularly at the Faculty and School descriptions that relate most closely to your area of research interest. These pages have lists of staff members to whom you should feel free to make contact. The Research Office can provide limited support in this process. 

Your potential host will help you secure the necessary funding by asking you to write funding applications to the University or through one of the external funders, like the NRF. The Research Office will also provide assistance with this process.

For more information on this process please contact:

Mr  Alban van Roy
Tel: +27 (0)11 717 1389 during office hours
Email: alban.vanroy@wits.ac.za
Postal: Private bag 3, PO Wits, 2050 South Africa 

[1] Research output is used in its broadest sense and recognises creative outputs that meet agreed criteria. However, typically the outputs include journal articles, peer reviewed conference proceedings, chapters in peer reviewed books and even peer reviewed books.

Message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Affairs, 
Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi

Thank you for considering Wits as a possible destination for your Postdoc Fellowship.

In considering where to take up your Fellowship I would encourage you to make the decision based on two important factors. Firstly, the match between your areas of research interest and that of your host and, secondly, based on the research intensity of the host university. It makes no sense to do a postdoc fellowship which is research focused at a university that is not research intensive.

Your postdoc fellowship should be characterised by a strong research focus that will allow you to deepen your knowledge of a particular disciplinary area. You should be able to grow your research track record through the publication of peer reviewed research. However, the Postdoctoral Fellowship also gives you freedom to investigate other aspects of academic life.

You may have the opportunity to co-supervise graduate students, undertake limited teaching duties or share your knowledge with the general public. This may be challenging for you, but it will certainly open up new vistas of opportunity and help you develop your professional Curriculum Vitae.

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