South Africa-United Kingdom University Staff Doctoral Programme

Learning Lessons Laterally: A South Africa-United Kingdom Collaboration – by Zaira Solomons

We’ve kicked off a new project.

From April to June, GLEA is working closely with colleagues at Stellenbosch University, Walter Sisulu University, and Coventry University’s Doctoral College, Centre for Research Capability and Development.

Together, we’ve been funded by the British Council and the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to scope a bid as part of the University Staff Doctoral Programme (USDP). The next phase of this funding is designed to improve doctoral education success rates for previously disenfranchised groups in South Africa. The USDP aims to do this by facilitating and supporting doctoral education for underrepresented individuals who hold academic, or academic-related, posts.

A key focus of our bid proposal will be on doctoral study completion rates. We must begin by exploring pertinent facts, figures, and research. We want to find ways to assist institutions to mobilise educational opportunities for their students, and to help raise the standing, status, and prestige of previously disadvantaged institutions.

This initiative will build on best practice in supporting and supervising doctoral students to enhance completion rates, and recognition of the related challenges. While this will benefit the collaborating institutions, these are lessons we will share more widely as we progress, starting with challenges for incoming PhD candidates into the UK, and for at-distance doctorates for PhD candidates in their home countries (project member, Rebekah Smith McGloin’s blogpost Where Global Challenge Research and Doctoral Education Meet published on the Higher Education Policy Institute’s blogsite).

We used Skype™ for our initial meeting, with colleagues participating individually and in small groups from the UK and South Africa. We learned to be patient with technology: one participant had to start off on the phone but later joined the video-call after some technical adjustments. We all engaged in fruitful conversation in order take this project to the next stage.

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Professor Liezel Frick (left, Stellenbosch University), Professor Nolutho Diko (upper right, Walter Sisulu University), Dr Rebekah Smith McGloin (Coventry University, temporarily as audio participant on phone), and the three other Coventry team members (inset top right) listen as Professor Wilson Akpan, (lower right, Walter Sisulu University) shares his support for this project.
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Zaira Solomons (left, Project Postgraduate Researcher) and Professor Katherine Wimpenny (right, Project Lead), both from Coventry University, manage paperwork, time, audio and video.
[Photos: Virginia King, Bid Coordinator, Coventry University]

We look forward to all the opportunities this project presents, and would love to hear from colleagues engaged in a similar area.