Where are the PhDs?

Economic growth and development in Africa have increased the need for educated and qualified labour. Consequently, the number of students in universities is growing significantly, which in turn gives rise to the concern that there will be less resources and time for research.

For universities to manage both teaching and research, qualified people are required.
− We know there aren’t enough PhDs at African universities to meet the demand. We also know quite a lot about the situation in higher education and research in Africa right now. But we know little about the universities’ most strategic resource, the PhDs. Where are they and what are they doing? asks NAI researcher Måns Fellesson.

Swedish cooperation has for many years focused on PhD education in support of research in African partner countries. For obvious reasons, without qualified researchers, there will be no national research development. However, little is known about what the support has achieved. A PhD student costs up to SEK 2 million to educate. No other type of contribution in the Swedish development aid allocates more resources to one single individual.

Since 2012, Måns Fellesson, together with Paula Mählck from Stockholm University, has been leading a project on the mobility and career choices of PhD holders in Africa. The first phase of the project was conducted in Maputo in February this year and was financed by the Swedish embassy in Mozambique. Later, similar studies will be undertaken in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, all of which are cooperation partners with Sweden. Comparisons with other donor country models will also be made.

− Preliminary results from the survey and interviews in Mozambique show that a nearly all of the 100 PhD candidates financed by Sweden since 1990 are still in the country, and most of them are at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. Consequently mobility is low,   so one of objectives of this support programme is met. However, further analysis is required. Why is mobility so low? Are there no other career opportunities available in Mozambique, says Måns Fellesson.

The project also looks at the Swedish model for PhD education. For instance, how was the training in Sweden and in South Africa perceived by the students?

− For many, it was tough to organise their family life, especially for women. Another tendency in our material is that the PhD students trained in South Africa found the supervision more troublesome, says Måns Fellesson.  

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