On Monday July 13, 2015 the University of Ghana Pan African Doctoral Academy (UG-PADA) opened a two-week multidisciplinary doctoral school at the Center for African Wetlands, University of Ghana, Legon. UG-PADA is part of the University of Ghana’s drive to become a leading research driven institution that will produce PhD’s who are able to compete on the world stage. With sponsorship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the UG-PADA aims to address specific skill gaps and provide opportunities for improving the knowledge of doctoral candidates.
The workshop brought together PhD candidates from Ghanaian and Nigerian universities with the aim of building the capacity of participants to handle the challenges of their rigorous PhD programmes. Participants had the opportunity to interact with experienced professors from the University of Ghana as well as the diaspora on specialized activities and topics involving practical sessions.
As part of the tradition during UG-Carnegie workshops, the UG-PADA project director, Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu asked participants to write down their expectations and what they hoped the programme will help them achieve to enable them do a proper assessment at the end of the programme. Participants were introduced to the facilitators of the various sessions as well as aspects of the various modules that were to be taught. During the first week participants were taken through two main modules; Managing the Doctoral Process and Quantitative Research Methodology
Professor Pious Adesanmi from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada opened the session for Managing the Doctoral Process. The session also saw Dr. Akua Anyidoho a senior research fellow at ISSER, Dr. Kwamena Sagoe, senior lecturer at the Department of Medical Microbiology and Mrs. Theodosia Adanu Senior Assistant Librarian, all from the University of Ghana make various presentations. The session took participants through some of the challenges of the PhD programme, provided guidelines on working with supervisors and faculty and enabled participants identify and learn to make use of various resources and opportunities available during the period of their PhD candidacy.
Professor Adesanmi who has been a UG diasporan linkage fellow for two years said he was impressed with how the programme had evolved. He recalled his earlier participation when the program was only available to UG students.
“it’s good to see students from Ibadan and Ilorin. Now we have more students and the models have been expanded and strengthened”, he said. “The Quality of students is quite impressive in the face of the huge challenges in higher education across the continent and the essence of this programme is to fill these gaps”.
Professor Joseph Mensah from York University, Toronto, Canada, managed the Quantitative Research Methodology session. The session took participants through basic quantitative research techniques for social science research using both theory and practical application through assignments and exercises. Participants were taken through experiential lessons that involved inputting, coding and analyzing data using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences Software (SPSS). The session provided participants with practical knowledge in quantitative social science research and a working knowledge of SPSS software.
Adebola Oshebanjo a participant from the University of Ibadan said it had been a wonderful experience being a part of the two-week doctoral school.
“It has been wonderful and an eye opener, I took two modules, quantitative research analysis and communicating research and now I am able to analyze data better using SPSS”, he said.
He said he would like to see more West African universities included in the next doctoral school.
In the second week students were taken through two more modules; Communicating Research Results and Qualitative Research Methodology. Communicating Research Results was facilitated by Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana and Professor Audrey Gadzekpo from the Department of Communication. Qualitative Research Methodology and the use of Nvivo software for qualitative research sessions were facilitated Dr. Nana Akua Anyidoho and Dr. Lydia Aziato.
Professor Addae-Mensah said the aim of the session was to help participants develop the necessary writing skills to enable them convey their findings to their various publics. He said he had always been concerned about scientific writing among students and faculty and felt the Pan African Doctoral School was a good opportunity to strengthen participants’ ability to communicate to the various audiences. He said Poor communication by scientists could easily distort public opinion on very serious issues like happened during the recent Ebola debate in parliament and in the media in Ghana.
“Communicating science research occurs between the scientist and other scientists, the scientist and non-scientists and the scientist and general public”, he said. “The media is like an interface that must be courted by the scientist in order to report accurately and simply”.
Professor Addae-Mensah said he was happy to see students from Nigeria participating in the doctoral academy hoped to see students from other African
Universities in subsequent programmes. He said he hoped the University of Ghana would find ways to sustain the programme when the grant from the Carnegie Corporation period had been exhausted.
Sheena Lovia Boateng a participant from the UG Business School said Carnegie sponsored doctoral programmes have become a part of the UG doctoral experience. She said she had benefited immensely from the Managing the Doctoral Process session during the last doctoral workshop.
“A lot of the things we are not exposed to in the classroom we get to learn in doctoral school. I didn’t really understand what I was doing in my first year and I encountered some challenges. Taking the Managing the Doctoral Process module really helped me to cope with my PhD work”, she said.
The doctoral school ended with the award of certificates of participation and an evaluation session in which participants shared their experiences from the programme.