CTEF meet in Kuala Lumpur for doctoral education in Commonwealth Africa

CTEF meet in Kuala Lumpur for doctoral education in Commonwealth Africa

Published on 25 March 2015

In February 2015, the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Facility (CTEF) convened a meeting in Kuala Lumpur to consider their policy paper on doctoral education in Commonwealth Africa. As one of CTEF’s partners, The Association of Commonwealth Universities was invited to attend and share some of their experience on doctoral education, alongside fellow speakers from the International Association of Universities (IAU) and the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL). 

The Malaysia-based CTEF was inaugurated in 2014, equipped with a small dedicated team and under the leadership of Professor Dato’ Morshidi Sirat. The ambit of the facility - established following a proposal from the ACU’s then-secretary general at the 2006 Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers (CCEM) – is well captured by their website’s by-line: ‘Generating Knowledge and Sharing Best Practices’. 

Many important issues were raised in Kuala Lumpur, but some of the most important points centred on the need for robust intra- and inter-regional cooperation, although this may take many guises.   

As the IAU’s IDEA-PhD initiative has illustrated, it is possible to make productive and coherent institutional consortia across geographical and linguistic boundaries in Africa. The feasibility of maintaining research and professional exchange networks between continents has also been demonstrated by projects such as DocLinks. Addressing the challenges of doctoral education can thus be a collective endeavour, not necessarily limited to independent actions at institutional, national, or regional levels. 

The potential for collaboration also applies at the resource level. Professor Asha Kanwar, CoL president and CEO, recommended that sharing access amongst many institutions via open publishing and Open Educational Resources (OER) was one route to both facilitating cooperation and reducing the cost of basic training for doctoral candidates. CoL’s ‘Practitioner Research, Evaluation, and Skills Training’ (PREST) and the ACU’s own STARS project – a blended learning programme for early career training – are examples of initiatives that might provide a basis for wider activity. 

Nonetheless, it was noted – including by the ACU - that efforts toward coordinated action must recognise differing national and institutional circumstances, particularly in the motivations for increasing emphasis on doctoral education: no one policy framework is likely to fit across the nations of Commonwealth Africa.  

In practice this means that involvement of stakeholders from within the countries and regions likely to participate in doctoral education projects is essential to crafting a cogent policy statement. CTEF has proposed the creation of a High Level Expert Group, charged with scrutinising and steering the policy paper’s development, from across the stakeholder continuum and the exact composition of this group will soon be decided.