Eastern Africa Universities Partner to Establish PhD Hub

From Left: Prof. Sunduzwayo Madise of University of Malawi, Prof. Victoria Ngumi (JKUAT), Prof. Peck (NTU) and Prof. Michael Ntabo (Rongo University) sign the MoU at Brackenhurst, Limuru, Kenya.

Six universities in Eastern Africa have formalized a partnership with Nottingham Trent University (UK) that will see the institutions broaden their pool of doctoral students and supervisors; develop research capacity and training, build international partnerships, share physical facilities as well as expertise through a network of peers.

These objectives will be actualized through the establishment of the Eastern Africa PhD Hub that will serve all the partner institutions who are signatories to the memorandum of understanding (MoU).

These universities are: Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Nottingham Trent University(NTU), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Malawi, Mount Kenya University (MKU) , Kenyatta University (KU) and Rongo University.

Speaking on Thursday, October 27, 2022, during the signing of the MoU in Limuru, Kenya, Prof. Edward Peck, the Vice Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, underscored the importance of “strengthening the doctoral supervision process, terming it “a key component in ensuring success for candidates and developing leadership skills in our universities and the wider society. “

Dr. Clare Newstead signs the visitors’ book as Dr. Andrew and Cato Rolea (left) all from NTU when they paid a courtesy call on the JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Ngumi (right).

Prof. Peck said, he was excited to see “the PhD hub partnership as a natural progression from the partnership work in Eastern Africa,” which he added, “was in line with the core principles of NTU’s strategic plan of University, reimagined.”

Prof. Peck reported that during this summer, 40 students and 20 staff members from Makerere, MKU and JKUAT visited NTU as part of the Erasmus International Credit Mobility project during which they shared knowledge and ideas on topics of global importance such as public health, food security, and the environment.

He also lauded activities at the Centre for Ecological Restoration at Brackenhurst, Limuru, where “JKUAT and MKU are collaborating to deepen the concept of embracing sustainability and connecting globally, with a strong commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

While welcoming the idea of the PhD Hub, JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi  committed to support the establishment of the Eastern Africa PhD Hub, noting, the initiative was “profoundly justifiable as the challenges encountered within PhD studies are quiet alarming, especially the rate of completion within the stipulated time.”

A section of guests interact during the Dinner hosted by NTU in Nairobi.

The Vice Chancellor stated that the unique component of introducing the perspective of initiating PhD supervisors into supervision and mentorship alongside the PhD students, “provides a solution-based approach in a more diversified manner from a global partnership perspective.”

Prof. Ngumi acknowledged Dr. Jackline Nyaberi of the School of Public Health at JKUAT and her colleagues working on the partnership, for their great work and encouraged them “to work in a collaborative spirit in furtherance of the aims and objectives of the Eastern Africa PhD Hub.”

It is envisaged that the Eastern Africa PhD hub model will operate through a working consortium of the partner universities and it is poised to be a vibrant forum for best practice for PhD students and peer support.

Nottingham Trent University is strategically committed to building global partnerships in order to nurture global citizenship, engaging the international research community and attracting talented students and staff globally.   Through the Global Strategic Partnership Fund, NTU has committed resources to support interested parties to develop the Eastern Africa PhD hub.

The idea of the Hub seeks to build and increase capacity in PhDs as well as shine a spotlight on the quality of doctoral supervision. By strengthening doctoral supervisory training, PhD programmes will build capacity to support more candidates complete their doctoral studies.

The JKUAT team led by Prof. Ngumi and Prof. Jackson Kwanza (Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Production and Extension)  join Prof. Peck and Prof. Linda Gibson of NTU for a commemorative photo after the MoU signing ceremony at Brackenhurst, Limuru.

Once operational, the Eastern Africa model for PhD supervision will enable students to draw supervisors from any university in order to gain access to expertise.

The expected impacts of the EA Hub include: increasing visibility and reputation of NTU and its partners in Eastern Africa, increasing collaboration and knowledge transfer between partners for future PhD Hub activities including research income and funding opportunities.

All the partner institutions represented at the ceremony re-affirmed their commitment to the partnership, which they agreed, would be beneficial to the regional  institutions and faculty.

Players in the higher education sector have raised deep concerns regarding the weak doctoral supervision process in the region. Heavy workload of staff and inadequate capacity have been identified as some of the major drawbacks to quality PhD research output aspirations.

After formalizing the partnership, the partners retreated to a two-day workshop that deliberated on various pertinent topics including ” Understanding doctoral supervision in partner universities,”Development of mentoring programme” and “Development of strategic research  plan.” The institutions also  discussed  the strategies needed to chart the way forward for the Eastern Africa PhD hub.

The Eastern Africa PhD Hub partners after the MoU signing ceremony at Brackenhurst, Limuru.

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