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ADA Summer School empowers tomorrow’s scholars
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing
Published: 04/03/2024

​​February was a prolific month for the African Doctoral Academy (ADA) at Stellenbosch University (SU). Over the course of three weeks, the ADA welcomed PhD students and academics from 15 African countries who participated in the Academy's Hybrid Summer School. On offer this year was 16 different courses of which five were new – including one on artificial intelligence and scientific research.

The courses were presented by a group of highly skilled local and international academic experts from countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany and America. Several successful ADA scholarship holders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Mauritius and South Africa attended the Summer School, as well as delegates from the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Energy.

The ADA Summer School strives to provide comprehensive training in impactful research design and methodology, along with opportunities for academic readiness and career advancement. The courses are designed for doctoral students and prospective PhD candidates, their supervisors and researchers.

Irene Mutuzo, a PhD student in organisational psychology from Makerere University in Uganda, was full of praise for this year's doctoral school. “I've recently switched over from the corporate world to academia and at the start of my PhD journey, I felt a bit overwhelmed. The past two weeks have been amazing. I've learnt so much and I've acquired skills that I believe will enable me to work smarter and faster. I've also met incredibly intelligent and inspiring mentors."

His experience at the doctoral summer school was very enlightening, said Bathromeu Mavusa, a PhD student in political science at SU. “I was initially very sceptical about artificial intelligence, but Dr Sonja Strydom completely changed my mind in her lecture. I learned that AI can be a valuable tool in academia, offering support and insights rather than replacing human intelligence. It's crucial to strike a balance between human intellect and AI assistance. The discussions on power relations and ethical considerations surrounding AI were eye-opening, especially regarding its implications for the Global South." Additionally, he found the Mixed Methods research course particularly beneficial as it expanded his understanding of research methodologies, Mavusa said.

The opportunity to connect fellow delegates from various African countries and beyond with international and local presenters during the ADA Summer School has been invaluable, fostering a sense of academic fellowship and collaboration, said Dr Natalie Kowalik, ADA Programme Manager at the Africa Centre for Scholarship at SU.

“These experiences will hopefully not only propel individual academic trajectories but also contribute to the collective advancement of scholarship across Africa and beyond," Kowalik noted. “The ADA's doctoral schools have sparked considerable interest, yet delegates often face financial challenges. In response, the ADA this year offered its first full 'hyflex' course (a format that allows students to choose between attending classes in person, remotely, or through a combination of both), showcasing the ADA's commitment to offering impactful doctoral training, catering to delegates unable to travel. The Mixed Methods course received immense positive feedback from delegates – in-person as well as those joining online."

On 5 February the ADA and the Postgraduate Forum for Southern Africa (PGFSA) hosted a joint event which culminated in the official relaunch of the PGFSA. The event took place at the Wallenberg Conference Centre at STIAS, under the theme “International Trends in Postgraduate Education and Fostering Research Collaboration Across Africa and Beyond".

Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs at SU, offered a warm welcome to local and international guests. The guest speaker at the launch event was Prof Gina Wisker from the University of Bath in the UK who gave an insightful presentation about trends in doctoral studies internationally.

A panel discussion facilitated by Dr Henriette van den Berg of the PGFSA focused on international trends in postgraduate education and ways of fostering research collaboration across Africa and beyond.

The ADA's Hybrid Summer School was concluded on a high note when Prof Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU, gave an inspiring guest lecture on the strategic imperatives of fostering research collaboration. Moyo challenged the ADA summer school participants to use their newly acquired insights and networks to find innovative solutions for challenges such as poverty, inequality, unemployment and corruption.

PHOTO: Ignus Dreyer