Perceptions of homoeopathy graduates of Durban University of Technology (previously Technikon Natal) with regard to research as a component of the degree
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Anecdotal evidence suggests that students perceive the research component of the Master’s Degree in Technology: Homoeopathy (M.Tech: Homoeopathy) qualification at Durban University of Technology (DUT) in a negative light, and as an unnecessary obstacle to the qualification and the practice of homoeopathy (Naude, 2008). One of the reasons for this negative perception is that in terms of the Homoeopathic programme, the only exit point is upon completion of the Master’s Degree. Although relevant status is awarded upon completion of N. Dip: Homoeopathy after the third year of study and B. Tech: Homoeopathy after the fourth year of study, no actual certificates/qualifications are awarded or issued nor can the student register/practice as a Homoeopath (Durban University of Technology, 2009). The Homoeopathic profession in South Africa is unique as there are very few professional qualifications which prescribe an obligatory Master’s level qualification in order to register and practice the respective profession. Due to the M.Tech: Homoeopathy being the only exit point in the Homoeopathy programme, every registered student must complete a Master’s dissertation in order to qualify and ultimately practice Homoeopathy in South Africa, this often results in students conducting research for the wrong reasons, without the genuine academic desire to do so or the maturity and skills required (Naude, 2008). According to the Education Department of South Africa (2007), the primary purposes of a Master’s Degree are to educate and train researchers who can contribute to the development of knowledge at an advanced level, or prepare graduates for advanced and specialised professional employment. A Master’s Degree must have a significant research component. iv The Education Department of South Africa (2007), states that a Master’s Degree may be earned in either of two ways: (1) by completing a single advanced research project, culminating in the production and acceptance of a thesis or dissertation, or (2) by successfully completing a course work programme requiring a high level of theoretical engagement and intellectual independence and a research project, culminating in the acceptance of a dissertation. In the latter case, a minimum of 60 credits at level 9 must be devoted to conducting and reporting research. According to the Education Department of South Africa (2007), Master’s graduates must be able to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements using data and information at their disposal and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and nonspecialist audiences. Graduates must be able to demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level, and continue to advance their knowledge, understanding and skills. Methodology A non-experimental descriptive survey was conducted to determine the perceptions of DUT M.Tech: Homoeopathy graduates with regards to research as a component of the degree. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed and 50 anonymous responses were obtained. Raw data was analysed using descriptive statistics and the relationships between variables tested for correlations. v Results 27% of practicing graduates felt that research had a direct benefit on their professional development. Graduates said that after completing research they felt more competent and gained more faith in their profession. 34% of graduates thought that research had a direct benefit on their personal development. Graduates felt that on the path of working towards a long term goal they had discovered that they possessed a significant amount of patience and will power. 40% of graduates agreed that research had no contribution to their personal and professional development as a Homoeopath. Although some graduates said they felt a “sense of accomplishment” upon completing research, other graduates argued that the delay in qualifying as a result of research contributed to the loss of income and valuable clinical knowledge. Conclusions and Recommendations The process of research is a multi–factorial problem. One has to look at each individual case in order to gain insight into how to best address respective problem areas in order to improve the process of research and reduce the delays in qualification. Many graduates expressed dissatisfaction at the inconsistent time factor, from conception of the research design, to awaiting both approval of the DUT 186 and finally the marking of the completed work. Some graduates felt that difficulties relating to the quality and quantity of supervision as well as poor patient/ participant compliance were the factors responsible for their delay in qualification. Many graduates reported that the previously limited Homoeopathic research budget left them compromised for scope, diversity and new ideas. vi It was recommended that future students insist on formal supervision contracts which clearly define issues such as accessibility and timeframes. It was also recommended that future students consider at least two supervisors, preferably one being an external supervisor with suitable specialist skills concerning the respective research study. Furthermore, it was recommended that future research should be designed around easily accessible target populations. The M.Tech: Homoeopathy programme is currently undergoing recurriculation; the new curriculum will be most likely implemented in 2011. A draft curriculum has been designed by academic staff of DUT and University of Johannesburg. The proposed new curriculum aims to addresse issues such as difficulties with research as well as solutions to these difficulties.