International Association of Universities

Building a worldwide higher education community


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.

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