Research output crisis in state universities in the age of Open and Distance Learning (ODL)
Research plays a pivotal role in the university community. It enhances career development while at the same time bringing in new innovations to the nation at large. Universities are ranked on the basis of research output, among other criteria. Research output also contributes to the recruitment and promotion of university personnel, and possession of Doctoral qualifications is also a basis for recruitment and promotion for University faculty. Admittedly, research by faculty members indispensably feeds into quality teaching within universities. Arguably, our universities still have few doctorate holders, senior lecturers and professors, an indicator to limited research output. Furthermore, most tenure applications fail due to absence of research output evidence. Given that most universities, including those traditionally conventional, have adopted ODL in response to market needs, this study sought to explore the factors accounting for the low research output in Zimbabwean universities. A qualitative research approach underpinned by the interpretive paradigm was employed in this study to explore the factors leading to low research output among university faculty members. Purposive sampling was used to select participants from a two state universities until data reached saturation point. Documents were also interrogated to find out the research output of staff members as well as their qualifications. Transcribed data from in-depth interviews were thematically analysed. It emerged from the study that there was limited research output in universities due to lack of competences, unavailability of research grants, work and family commitments, research phobia, lack of interest, lack of confidence and mentorship, and scarce research funding, work overload, and mere laziness. The research recommends the need for training of university staff in research and publication, advocacy on the need for publication, providing access to research grants, and deliberate mentorship arrangements. These interventions might engender the positive environment for research output in universities.
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