SALDRU Training with DataFirst and the School of Economics

The 2018 Post Graduate Diploma in Survey Data Analysis for Development cohort, pictured with Andrew Kerr. Photo: Martin Wittenberg.

SALDRU’s research gets a lot of attention, but there is also a substantial training component of SALDRU’s work. The School of Economics, DataFirst and SALDRU have jointly run a Post Graduate Diploma (PGDip) in Survey Data Analysis for Development since 2016. The impetus for the program came from an agreement between Statistics South Africa and SALDRU to provide training to Statistics South Africa staff in 2012. The program began with several short courses, and became a fully-fledged PGDip in 2016. Since 2016 there have been approximately 50 graduates, including 40 Stats SA employees. Other students have come from the University of the Western Cape, the Departments of Basic Education and Transport, the Namibian Statistics Agency, the private sector and Africa Check.

The Sustainable Development Goals require an understanding of economic development, but also skills in using survey data to track progress and provide analysis. This intersection between learning to use and understand survey data and connect it to broader development discussions is where the PGDip is located. This means that the program teaches the core strengths of SALDRU and DataFirst and the teaching staff are drawn from both units, with admin support from the School of Economics and DataFirst.

The PGDip covers econometrics, the design and analysis of complex surveys, panel data (mostly using the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS)), labour economics, poverty and inequality and consumption and expenditure data. The program also offers short courses to those unable to find time for the full diploma. In 2018 around 80 students from 20 countries attended a short course. In 2020 the short courses have been expanded to include three new courses on multiple imputation, an introduction to the R statistical package, and using spatial night lights data in R.

The PGDip and short course offerings are a collaborative effort by SALDRU, DataFirst and the School of Economics to train people to use, analyse and understand survey data. This includes substantial training for Statistics South Africa staff, who are at the core of data production in the South African National Statistics System, and whose data researchers in SALDRU and DataFirst rely on for much of their own research.