Head: Postdoctoral Research Support

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Stellenbosch University

Division for Research Development

Head: Postdoctoral Research Support

(Ref. ANO/369/1118)

The Division for Research Development (DRD) is responsible for the advancement, facilitation and support of research at Stellenbosch University. It provides professional support services to SU academic staff members, postdoctoral fellows, and postgraduate students.

Its broad responsibility areas include the following:

  • Managing SU’s research grant applications and (pre- and post-award) processes – at institutional, national and international level. This includes serving as central liaison office for a number of funding agencies at national and international level.
  • Providing inputs into SU’s research strategy, and support to a number of research-related Senate committees.
  • Managing all SU’s research and research-related contracts.
  • Formulating, implementing and curatorship of a number of research-related University policies.
  • Promoting and supporting responsible (ethical) research conduct. This includes the institutional responsibility for the implementation of SU’s research ethics policy and the management of research ethics review processes, as well as the investigation of any allegations of breaches of research ethics principles.
  • Promoting the visibility of SU’s research and science communication, inter alia via the publication of SU’s annual research report.
  • Research capacity development, which includes the management of a structured early career academic development programme.
  • Providing strategic support to postdoctoral fellows, including registrations, fellowship application processes, management of postdoctoral funding and payments, as well as general support to the postdoctoral community and their hosts at SU.
  • Providing strategic support to postgraduate (PG) students, in terms of strategy and policy development, institutional systems development, promoting recruitment, supporting applications and enrolments, managing joint degree processes, managing all institutional PG bursary allocations and payments, as well as providing general support and capacity development support.
  • Managing institutional research-related information and data, including the annual auditing and reporting of publication outputs to the Departement of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Motivation for this position:

The significant growth in postdoctoral numbers at SU has put a severe strain on the DRD’s capacity to sufficiently support postdoctoral fellows and establish efficient systems for the management of postdoctoral fellowships. Postdoctoral fellows are trainee academics appointed against a fellowship, but even if their duties and the nature of their work are academic and very similar to that of appointed staff, they do not have access to an HR-type of support structure. SU hosted 347 postdocs in 2017. Their support, as well as the management of their fellowships, is currently formally the responsibility of 1.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in the Division for Research Development. It is not possible for these 1.5 FTE positions to provide the level of support that our postdoctoral fellows require and deserve. The DRD needs to ensure that the 300+ postdoctoral fellows per annum at SU receive their payments timeously. There is currently no capacity to search for additional postdoctoral fellowship funding, to focus in particular on capacity development of this next generation of researchers, and to provide broader support to the postdoctoral community at SU.

SU strives to become a preferred destination for national and international postdoctoral fellows, and therefore wishes to establish this capacity.

A new full-time position is established in the DRD to ensure improved and expanded support to SU’s postdoctoral community.

The position will have a reporting line (for day-to-day management) to the Cluster Manager: International and Early Career Research Grants, as well as a dotted reporting line to the Senior Director: Research and Innovation.


We are looking for a self-driven, dynamic and experienced individual to take up this exciting new position in the DRD.

The responsibilities of this position will include:

  • Overseeing and managing all processes related to institutional support for postdoctoral fellows and fellowships at SU;
  • Line management of two individuals currently involved in postdoctoral fellowship processes (applications to funding calls, and registration and monthly payments);
  • Curatorship (which includes the responsibility for supporting implementation, awareness raising and approriate review) of SU’s existing postdoctoral policy;
  • Serving as central liaison for postdoctoral matters with senior University management, working closely with deans and vice-deans (research) in the Faculties to support and grow SU’s postdoctoral community;
  • Serving as central liaison for all postdocs and postdoc hosts at SU, to discuss any matters pertaining to the registration, payment and hosting of postdoctoral fellows. This includes problem-solving and facilitation with regards to the implementation of the compulsory memorandum of agreement (MoA) between hosts and postdocs;
  • Serving as central liaison with national and international funding bodies with existing or potential interests in postdoctoral fellowships at SU;
  • Liaising with similar positions at other universities, and regulatory bodies, at national and international level as and when appropriate, to benchmark good practice and ensure regulatory compliance at SU;
  • Overseeing the management of all postdoctoral fellowship granting processes. This includes identifying and promoting grant opportunities, assisting and advising potential applicants, receiving and reviewing applications for quality assurance and ensuring adherence to regulations and compliancy requirements, timeous submissions to grant agencies, and post-award management and reporting;
  • Overseeing the registration processes and payments of all SU postdoctoral fellowships, streamlining business processes, drafting appropriate documentation, and putting new systems in place as required. This will require a particular focus on developing appropriate electronic systems (in collaboration with the IT and Finance divisions, where necessary), which will streamline postdoctoral processes at SU;
  • Identifying and accessing new postdoctoral fellowship funding opportunities for SU. This will require the pro-active searching for new opportunities, and high-level engagement with potential new funders of postdoctoral fellowships at SU;
  • Implementing a more structured academic capacity development programme for postdocs at SU. This will require close liaising with the Senior Director: Research and Innovation to ensure alignment where possible with the existing early career development programme, but will also require this position to play a pro-active role in raising and managing new funds for postdoctoral capacity development projects;
  • Responsible for the management of all data, record keeping and statistics related to postdocs at SU;
  • Liaising closely with the Postdoctoral Society at SU to ensure open communication channels between University management and the postdoc community at SU;
  • Supporting and facilitating activities which will lead to the promotion of cohesion in SU’s postdoc community. This includes support for the existing annual Postdoctoral Research Conference and other events.


  • A Doctoral qualification in any academic discipline, and at least three years’ postdoctoral experience (as a postdoctoral researcher or in another position);
  • Sound knowledge of the postdoctoral position, as well as the higher education landscape in South Africa. This includes in-depth knowledge of how postdocs are managed in the South African context, and the complexities involved in the processes surrounding postdocs at South African universities;
  • Proven knowledge and experience in the drafting and review of successful research funding proposals, and in the management and administration of project grants;
  • The ability to work effectively and independently in a high pressure and fast moving environment, with a high premium on client-focused support. This position requires a dynamic, independent and self-driven professional, with a flexible and mature approach to management and client service;
  • Knowledge of and experience in the management of business processes and administration in the South African higher education environment;
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English;
  • Excellent negotiation and interpersonal skills.


  • Broad knowledge of research policies and financial matters applicable in an academic environment;
  • Previous working experience in a university-based research management environment;
  • Financial and or business knowledge / qualification;
  • Fluency in another official South African language.

Commencement of duties: 1 January 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter

Closing date: 30 November 2018

Enquiries regarding this post: Dr. Therina Theron on 021 808 4624 or at ttheron@sun.ac.za

Enquiries regarding remuneration/benefits as well as technical assistance with the electronic application process: Human Resources Client Services Centre on 021 808 2753

The University will consider all applications in terms of its Employment Equity Plan, which acknowledges the need to diversify the demographic composition of the staff corps, especially with regard to the appointment of suitable candidates from the designated groups.

The University reserves the right not to make an appointment.

Your application, comprising a comprehensive curriculum vitae (including the names and e-mail address of at least three referees), must reach the University before or on the closing date of the advertised post.

Apply online at www.sun.ac.za/english/careers

The University reserves the right to investigate qualifications and conduct background checks on all candidates.

Should no feedback be received from the University within four weeks of the closing date, kindly accept that your application did not succeed.