Main Article Content

Supporting undergraduate research capacity development: A process evaluation of an Undergraduate Research Office at a South African Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

D L Marais
N C Gey van Pittius


Background. University-based research capacity development (RCD) mechanisms tend to focus on staff and postgraduate students, with few structures targeted at undergraduate students. Support for undergraduate research must be tailored to the unique requirements of research at this level, while maintaining links with relevant structures in both the RCD and teaching and learning domains.
Objective. To conduct a process evaluation of the Undergraduate Research Office (URO) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, using RCD and characteristics of excellence in undergraduate research criteria as benchmarks.
Methods. A process evaluation of URO’s first 6 years was conducted using a logic model of URO’s inputs, activities, and outputs. Through a retrospective document review, a descriptive analysis of URO’s inputs and activities (narrative) and URO’s outputs (statistical) was conducted.
Results. Following a description of inputs and activities, results present URO’s outputs as a measure of the uptake of these activities. From 2015 to 2020, 259 undergraduate research projects were completed. Research consultations, workshops and undergraduate presentations at the faculty’s Annual Academic Day have more than doubled since URO’s inception. The Undergraduate Research Ethics Committee has reviewed 243 ethics applications since 2015, with a 1 - 2-week turnaround time. A total of 134 funding applications worth ZAR705 986 have been awarded for research project, conference presentation and publication costs.
Conclusion. Results show the potential impact of a formal undergraduate research support entity on the undergraduate research outputs of a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. This article highlights elements for success for formal undergraduate research support, and identifies gaps going forward.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: