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Doctoral supervisors from African universities share valuable ideas in Stellenbosch
Author: CREST/Prof Jan Botha
Published: 13/11/2019

​​Various aspects of doctoral supervision in the African context came under the spotlight when a selected group of 18 supervisors of doctoral candidates representing universities in 13 African countries gathered at Stellenbosch University (SU) recently.

The doctoral supervisors participated in the DIES/CREST Alumni Networking Seminar at SU from 5–8 November 2019. The initiative is under leadership of Prof Jan Botha of SU's Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST).

The participants were selected from 155 (mostly novice) supervisors affiliated to African universities who have successfully completed the 100% online DIES/CREST course for doctoral supervisors at African universities offered since 2018 by CREST, based in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Also collaborating in the offering of the course are the Centre for Higher Education Research and Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University and the Centre for Higher and Adult Education (CHAE) based in SU's Faculty of Education. The course forms part of the Dialogue for Innovative Higher Education Strategies (DIES) Programme of the German Rector's Conference and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to Prof Sahaya G Selvam from the Tangaza University College in Kenya, this seminar was indeed the highlight with excellent, resourceful people and top researchers from Africa present at the event.

“I got a chance to share and exchange ideas with other scholars/supervisors. The group discussions helped me to see that my project was not unique and can give me an opportunity to collaborate with those who had similar ideas," says Selvam.

Prof Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo, dean: School of Research and Post Graduate Studies at the Uganda Christian University, says future conversations will be much easier because they have now met face to face. Up till the event, they had only communicated online.

“I came to learn that doctoral supervision is a discipline worth exploring as an area for further research. Trends in doctoral supervision from the region to the global level were highlighted, as well as growth in research and research gaps in doctoral supervision. The insights added value to my understanding of doctoral supervision and enhanced my skills," says Dr Katherine Fulgence from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She says she can now offer professional development courses on doctoral supervision with confidence.

Alumni were invited to submit projects on how they intend to multiply the knowledge and skills they have gained in the course at their own universities in their own countries. Their projects had to cover three aspects: research, capacity building and networking in the area of doctoral supervision. The purpose of the meeting in Stellenbosch was to establish and strengthen the networks between the alumni, to refine their projects and to deepen their knowledge of various aspects of doctoral supervision and to share good practice in doctoral supervision with a focus on the African context.

Papers were presented on topics such as trends in science production and doctoral studies in Africa; issues in doctoral supervision (globally and in Africa); research on postgraduate supervision; challenges of doctoral supervisors at African universities; networking and collaboration with professional support staff in universities; institutional digital transformation strategies and postgraduate supervision; resources for doctoral supervision; using electronic platforms for academic networking and using ICT in doctoral supervision.

Papers were presented by Profs Jan Botha (CREST), Liezel Frick (CHAE), Chrissie Boughey (CHERTL), Sioux McKenna (CHERTL), Johann Mouton (CREST), Dr Lauren Wildscut (CREST), Gabriele Vilyte of (CREST), Dr Nompilo Tshuma and Mine de Klerk of SU's Centre for Learning Technologies. Two experts from Europe also participated in the event, Dr Lucas Zinner, Director of Research at the University of Vienna, Austria and Michael Hörig, Head of Strategic Planning at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn, Germany.