Editorial, by Hilligje van’t Land, IAU Director Membership and Programme Development.
Universities around the world are the “thought leaders and knowledge providers in the required structural transformation process for the economy” (Aryeetey). To live up to this assumption and expectation, higher education institutions need to constantly enhance their teaching and research in order to generate the kind of research required to trigger innovation around the world. The same obviously applies to institutions in Africa. To contribute significantly to the global debates, to ensure that the African institutions generate the kind of “experts and leaders of solutions” the African continent needs (Lungren), Higher Education leaders in the continent are rethinking African doctoral programmes and their management. The rethinking and reform processes initiated over the last two decades are bearing fruits (Ambali, Malete, Lima Fortes), yet they need to be pursued and developed further.
In order to contribute and stimulate the process, the IAU initiated the www.ideaphd. net Portal on Innovative Approaches to Doctoral Education in Africa (IDEA). Developed in partnership with Association for Catalan Public Universities (ACUP), it provides examples on how to develop and manage a PhD; shares information on very diverse national and international Projects and Initiatives; presents HEI profiles and lists various Funding opportunities. It also lists events relating to the topic and will soon become an exchange platform for leaders, programme managers and researchers administrators. This In Focus section follows the same ‘logic’ in that it presents a series of papers contributed by experts from around Africa and beyond, in which they share their views on how to foster Capacity building, institutional reform and innovation, address the key challenges institutions face, in particular with regards to supervision, and discusses funding needs.
African HEIs strive to ensure quality teaching and research in order to deliver the number of quality students wishing and capable of undertaking and successfully completing a doctoral programmes in a set time that the continent needs to address the challenges it faces. Some African HEIs need to develop into ‘world class’ universities (Aryettey) to attract the right professors, researchers and students from the continent and abroad who will jointly generate the kind of research needed locally, regionally and globally. Papers published here stress the importance to further reform and restructure doctoral programmes claiming that they should be able to perform better. Papers draw attention to the research is being carried out at IAU, EUA, ACU and ACUP projects, and by Cross and Backhouse, to enable institutions to compare, revisit, reform and enhance their doctoral programmes and their management practices strategically (Lundgren, Aryeetey, Lima Fortes, Sy). Supervision
For doctoral students to become true researchers, autonomous critical thinkers, decision makers and innovators, who are able to develop original research questions – and even good communicators and true research ambassadors - , they need to be accompanied, trained and supervised adequately throughout their doctoral studies (Boughey and McKenna, Wainaina Mwaura). This is a challenge in itself since, with the massification of higher education on the one hand and the limited capacity at many institutions and far as academic and administrative staff is concerned, there are not enough supervisors available (see: Wainaina Mwaura). In addition, in order for supervision to be of quality, the authors argue that much attention needs to be devoted to training the trainers and supervisors adequately (Boughey and McKenna, Wainaina Mwaura). E-supervision is one avenue being investigated (see: Gmelch and Vilalta). The further development of solid, open and ‘equitable’ institutional and inter-institutional partnerships locally, regionally and internationally is also being investigated (see: Lima Fortes, Malete, Jorgensen, Aryeetey).
The role of funding
Substantial financial support is obviously essential. But funding should not only be sourced from international donors, as was and is often the case. Aryeetey, Ambali and Malete make the case for national university systems and individual institutions to be strengthened by governments to ensure the relevance of teaching and research locally and to ensure financial sustainability and, as a consequence, sustainability of programmes and HE systems as a whole (see: Lima Fortes, Lundgren, Ajai Ajagbe, Matondi and Tibugari).
Examples of exchange platforms offered by international organisations, like the EUA, ACU, ACUP and IAU, to promote inter-institutional dialogue and understanding and help enhance the development the development of networks, innovative partnerships and new cooperation are being highlighted. The papers give examples of research carried out in close cooperation with local institutions and experts have triggered innovative reform process (Ambali, Wainaina Mwaura, ACUP, ACU for instance). A number of new projects are also also presented (ACU, IAU, ACUP, Cross and Backhouse). To contribute to the discussions and to enhance the portal, please go to the following website or contact the IAU. Download IAU Horizons (Vol. 19 No.2).