Doctoral programmes

IDEA - PhD Portal and Activites

Innovative Approaches to Doctoral Education in Africa

After analysing the data reported throughout Phase I of the project, carried out with our partner pilot institutions - the University of Douala, Cameroon, University of Ilorin, Nigeria, Kenyatta University, Kenya, Université des Sciences et Technologies du Benin, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Senegal, and the National University of Rwanda – IAU published a report of our findings on the IAU website. (Please click here for the full report).

Phase II of the project incorporates a new series of sub-Saharan African institutions who completed the survey questionnaire in order to form a more robust report of trends and reforms affecting doctoral programmes on the continent. The sample of universities taking part so far include a wide variety of institutions that represent the diversity of doctoral programme operation and implementation in sub-Saharan Africa and thus incorporates a wide range of perspectives and practices in the IAU project.

The IAU Questionnaire and Survey dually functions as an institutional self-assessment tool, developed and tested in the first phase of the project, enhanced during the second phase, and which proved to be extremely effective for information gathering and for promoting reflexion on policy issues and ways to improve the quality of doctoral programmes. Institutions are able to review and, where needed, adjust their data storage and collection mechanisms, which enhances their ability to develop evidence-based strategies and responses to the challenges facing doctoral programmes in Africa.

The information and data collected from the participating institutions have also played a large role in determining the content and structure for the IAU interactive portal on innovative approaches to doctoral education in Africa which has been developed in partnership with IAU Members and in particular with the partner Universities, with ACUP – the Catalan Association of Public Universities and FUOC – the Open University of Catalonia, thanks to financial support provided by Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Spanish International Development Agency. The Portal was launched at the IAU 14th General Conference, on 30 November 2012. Contact: Dr van 't Land

Addis Ababa Seminar IAU - ACUP International Seminar on Innovative Approches to Doctal Education and Training, EiABC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 2012

Hosted by the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC), Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12-13 July 2012.

The International Association of Universities (IAU) and the Association of Catalan Public Universities (ACUP) were pleased to co-organize the international seminar on doctoral education and research training in Africa.

Bringing together participants from 19 higher education institutions, representing 14 countries, and 8 different higher education associations and organizations, the Seminar allowed for a discussion of the current state of doctoral education in Africa and was also the opportunity for participants to present various success stories. The participants also set out a series of recommendations and steps for future action to improve doctoral education.

  • The seminar programme and presentations can be accessed here.

  • The list of institutions and countries represented is available here.

  • For pictures from the seminar, please click here.

  • The Seminar Report and the Addis Conclusions and Declaration are available here.

IAU and ACUP are also delighted to announce the creation of an Interactive Web based Portal on Doctoral Education in and for Africa. Developed by IAU and ACUP, in cooperation with the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), this portal on doctoral education and training is to encourage the exchange of information and ideas related to doctoral programs and their overall management. The portal will be launched in October.


Phase I of Changing Nature of Doctoral Programmes in sub-Saharan Africa

In 2009, the IAU secured funding support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to work on The Changing Nature of Doctoral Programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the context of globalization and internationalization, and noting the constantly evolving higher education landscape, the purpose of this two year pilot study was and is to identify what changes are taking place in doctoral programmes in sub-Saharan Africa; to analyse the impact of these changes on training for research in six Anglophone and Francophone higher education institutions (HEIs) in sub-Saharan Africa; to understand if and how institutions have developed their institutional practices and how this impacts on and improves the management and functioning of their doctoral programmes; and to identify the challenges or difficulties encountered and solutions being tested in different institutions.

The six pilot institutions selected to take part in the pilot study were:

  • University of Douala, Cameroon;
  • University Ilorin, Nigeria;
  • Kenyatta University, Kenya;
  • Université des Sciences et Technologies du Benin, Benin;
  • Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal;
  • National University of Rwanda, Rwanda.

An additional purpose of the study was to stimulate focused debate on models of Doctoral training that have proven to be most appropriate to developing nations or those that need yet to be tried, and to offer a new and dynamic networking opportunity to a small set of HEIs to facilitate joint elaboration of comparative approaches and answers to the challenges they individually face. The study considered programmes in several branches of science, namely: the life sciences, the applied sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The project WebPages provide details about the project, related actions and outcomes.

For further information, please contact: Dr. H. van’t Land, Director Membership and Programme Development


Phase II of Changing Nature of Doctoral Programmes in sub-Saharan Africa

Implications and Usefulness of Survey Results

The responses gathered thanks to the IAU Survey questionnaire on Doctoral education developped for the project have served as a true foundation for the other initiatives developed as part of this project. During Phase II of the project, the updated version of the survey questionnaire has been distributed to a new set of institutions. The 2012 survey is to assist HEIs in Africa to identify aspects of doctoral program management, development and implementation that require specific attention. The analyses of the responses received and discussions of the results with the members of the institutional teams taking part in the project, is to help review the way doctoral education is managed and developped. It allows the review team to make recommendations for reviews and reforms in areas such as programme management and delivery, institutional organization. For information on initiatives developped under phase I and leading to this second phase, please read information provided below.

The IAU, in collaboration with the Catalan Association of Universities (ACUP) works on the development of an online interactive portal, informed by the needs and demands of sub-Saharan African institutions as determined through this project. This portal will be launched at the IAU 14th General Conference in Porto Rico, on 30 November 2012.

To take part in the project, please contact Dr. Hilligje van’t Land, Director of Membership and Programme Development at


This report is the result of the pilot project IAU developed on the Changing nature of doctoral programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Convinced that strong knowledge systems and research based knowledge are central to national development, IAU created an international Task Force and invited six of its Member institutions from across the African continent to take part.

A research question was developed, an institutional self-assessment instrument developed, institutional teams created and institutional self-assessments undertaken and complemented by institutional site visits. The institutions described the current state of their doctoral programmes, how they are shaped, organised and transformed. The data collected show how important doctoral programmes are for each institution and for their countries; the growing enrolment rates at doctoral level are telling, as are the changes that are being envisaged or implemented.

During a study and research seminar held in November 2010 (in Nigeria) and a data gathering and strategic planning seminar held in March 2011 (in Cameroon), the issues raised in the draft report were discussed, notes and experiences exchanged with colleagues from other pilot HEIs, and recommendations were made for the future.

The major conclusions presented in the report focus mainly on three areas: 1. the link between doctoral education and the institutional research strategy; 2. doctoral supervision and career development; and 3. the internationalisation of doctoral education, strategic planning and the crucial role of data collection and management.

Contact: Dr H. van’t Land, IAU Director Membership and Programme Development

The Report is one of the outcomes of the IAU project which included a number of interlinked actions, as listed below:

• Creation of an IAU international Task Force – this Task Force was composed of IAU Board Members and international experts, and provided advice and guidance to IAU throughout the project.

• Development of an institutional self-assessment tool – The project started with the development of an in-depth self-assessment questionnaire by IAU, the Members of the Task Force and with input from other experts and institutional team leaders. The questionnaire covered the following: A. the context in which the institution is operating; the country’s research system and the institutional profiles; the nature of doctoral studies and characteristics of students and supervisors associated with the doctoral programmes. B. The key challenges institutions face in doctoral programme delivery, management and organisation; C. Identification and analysis of policy reform areas for the improvement of the delivery of doctoral studies at institutional and national levels. Data collection was managed by the institutional teams and completed during institutional site visits by IAU team.

• A pilot of six IAU member institutions was created –pilot institutions were selected according to the following criteria and had had to:

  • be a Member of IAU in good standing and come from countries and regions of sub-Saharan Arica;
  • be a Public institution - or private with public interests;
  • illustrate innovation towards research policy development;
  • offer doctoral programmes in several disciplines;
  • show experience in developing research agendas;

Creation of Institutional teams - At the institutional level, the Rectors, Vice-Chancellors or Presidents appointed an Institutional Team with which the IAU project team worked in close collaboration. To ensure comprehensive coverage and a genuine institutional approach, and full involvement of IAU Member institutions in the process, the teams were composed of individuals representing the following institutional levels / positions / areas:

  • Senior University Officer (Rector/President/Vice Chancellor/Deputy Vice-Chancellor / Academic Research Deans)
  • Dean of Graduate School / Studies
  • Faculty Member
  • Junior Academic
  • Doctoral Student or Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • A key contact person for IAU was designated.

Institutional site visits: these took place in June and July 2010 at Kenyatta University, Kenya; University of Ilorin, Nigeria; National University of Rwanda, Rwanda; Université des Sciences et Technologies du Benin, Benin; Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Senegal.

Reporting, three steps: draft report on initial findings; debate on the initial conclusions during IAU Study and Research Seminar (University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria); final report submitted to pilot institutions and Members of the Task Force; submitted for publication.

Three Seminars :two in Nigeria and one in Cameroon:

a. IAU Study and Research Seminar, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria, November 2011: the Seminar focused on : 1. The Place of Doctoral Programmes in Institutional Research Strategies 2. Doctoral Student’s Supervision and Career Development and Monitoring 3. Internationalization of Doctoral Education and Strategic Planning and the Role of Data Collection. Key conclusions of the seminar are presented on the Documentation pages.

b. Special Session for Nigerian HEI leaders - following up on the University of Ilorin Seminar, a special session was hosted by and held at the University of Ilorin for Nigerian HEI leaders and other Nigerian colleagues involved and interested in the changing nature of doctoral programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. The results of the Seminar and of the initial phase of the project were presented to them and this led to a good discussion on the status of doctoral education in Nigeria. Outcomes: 1. The Nigerian Higher Education Institutions who attended the Workshop are investigating whether they can undertake a self assessment of their own Doctoral programmes, using the IAU tool; 2. the Association of African Universities (AAU) expressed interest in pursuing this project with their members.

c. Douala Seminar on Data collection and management for improved governance of doctoral programmes - Follow-up on one of the conclusions of the project, namely that better data collection on all operations relating to doctoral programmes would allow institutions to develop evidence based strategies for improving their doctoral programmes. IAU partnered up with the Douala University, Cameroon and with the University of Ottawa, Canada to organize a seminar on data collection and management. It took place at the University of Douala in March 2011. The seminar gathered 50 participants from seven state universities in Cameroon. Outcomes: the participating universities are evaluating their respective doctoral programmes using the IAU self-assessment tool in order to make recommendations for improvement to the Cameroonian Rectors Conference to take place later in 2011.

IAU Working Group

Terms of reference

Role of The Members of the Working Gruop for the project Innovative Approaches to Doctoral Education in Africa

  • Assist in the overall elaboration of the project framework, determining the most appropriate (possible) countries to select, the key questions upon which to focus the comparative study, the rationale to use for identifying the specific English and French speaking African university programmes which to include and the kind of information that should be gathered;
  • Advise IAU on the best manner to conduct the study with participating universities (selection of African HEIs or open call for proposal; detailed questionnaire sent to all or interviews by consultant, etc.), and what would be, in addition to analytical and comparative reports, other, most useful outcomes of the project;
  • Provide suggestions with regard to disciplinary focus, specific aspects of Doctoral programmes to consider, experts to contact;
  • Identify and share previously undertaken studies and research this area to inform the IAU project;
  • Advise on any similar project currently underway in other parts of the world or in Africa so that IAU can liaise with project leaders;
  • Help identify experts to act as consultants in the project and/or partner organizations that might be interested in contributing to the overall IAU project;
  • Review and comment on reports elaborated by participating institutions and take part, as appropriate, in meetings/group discussions/Seminars organised by IAU.

Members of the Working Group


  • Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

Members (in alphabetical order)

  • Abdul Ambali, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

  • Judy Backhouse, Associate Professor in Information Systems, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Gilles Breton, Graduate School of International and Public Affairs, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

  • Julie Brittain, Director of Programmes, Deputy Executive-Director, INASP, UK

  • John Ddumba-Ssentamu, Vice Chancellor, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

  • Etienne Ehile, Secretary-General, Association of African Universities (AAU), Ghana

  • Stephen Freedman, Provost, Fordham University, New York, USA

  • Phyllis Freeman, JD, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA; Co-Editor, Journal of Public Health Policy

  • Nadja Gmelch, Project Manager, Association of Catalan Public Universities (ACUP), Barcelona, Spain

  • Inger Lundgren, Research Advisor, Division for Research Cooperation, Dep. for Global Cooperation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Sweden

  • Goolam Mohamedbhai, Former Secretary-General AAU, Former President IAU, Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Mauritius

  • Olive Mugenda, Vice-Chancellor, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya

  • Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, PhD Coordinator, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

  • Patricia Pol, Policy Advisor for European and International Affairs, Agence d’évaluation de la Recherche et de l’Enseignement supérieur (AERES), Former VP International, Université Paris 12 - Val de Marne, France - Université Paris 12

  • Morshidi Sirat, Expert, University Sains Malaysia, Minden, Malaysia

  • Julie Stackhouse, Research Manager, Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), UK

IAU Project Coordinator:


IAU Study and Research Seminar, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria – Seminar Programme, List of Participants and Initial Conclusions

Initial Outcomes

References on Doctoral Programmes

IAU Seminar on Doctoral programmes related data collection and Management, University of Douala, Cameroon, March 2011 – Seminar Programme

For publications (books, papers) on doctoral education please consult HEDBIB the database on higher education systems, administration, planning, policy, and evaluation, maintained by the IAU since 1988. Suggested words to search HEDBIB: doctorat; doctoral programmes; doctoral education.