The low level of PhD enrolment in the universities in the country was the subject of discussion at the opening session of the University of Ghana (UG) Doctorial forum held at Legon in Accra last Friday.
Currently, out of the 90 per cent of post-graduate students enrolment in the universities in the country, only 10 per cent are in the doctoral programmes.
"The percentage of doctoral students per total enrolment for all universities in the country still leave much to be desired," the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, noted.
He said currently none of the universities in the country could truly qualify as a research university, noting that the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) had the highest of 1.4 per cent of PhD enrolment while the University of Ghana had 1.1 per cent.
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The forum, on the theme: “Promoting PhD education in Ghana,” was to provide a platform for stakeholders of graduate education to discuss the merits and challenges of PhD training in the country and also to sensitise and appeal to all stakeholders to support PhD education.
The forum follows at the heels of an announcement by the Minister of Education to the effect that henceforth those without PhD would not be allowed to lecture in a university in the country.
Low doctoral output
“For private universities in Ghana that presented statistics to the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) in 2014, only 1.8 per cent of students were pursuing post-graduate studies and none of those was enrolled in a PhD programme,” Prof. Yankah stated.
He said the national projected norm for post-graduate enrolment was a minimum of 25 per cent of total student enrolment, “and so our low doctoral output naturally affects the capacity of university to produce its own research staff to replace ageing faculty within the university itself, as well as other universities and industry.
This obligation should be of much concern to Legon, since being the premier university and the largest in the country, the University of Ghana is morally obliged to produce enough to feed other sectors.
“If the premier university has such a poor enrolment in doctorate programmes, you can imagine how adversely this would affect other universities and sectors, where doctoral degrees would be crucially required,” Prof. Yankah observed.
Major impediments to doctoral work in most African countries, he observed, could be traced to resource constraints, limited library resources on topic chosen, poorly equipped science and technology laboratories and limited or poor internet access.
“Indeed, many a time, the high cost of bandwidth constraints an institution’s research capabilities and limits graduate students’ access to key and crucial data bases.
“As a result of this, doctoral students and their supervisors are not likely to be abreast of current theoretical and comparative literature, which provide new and refreshing insights in dissertation projects,” Prof. Yankah noted.
Frustrations from supervisors
Delays may also be traced to overworked mentors and supervisors, who are not sufficiently motivated to focus on doctoral supervision and would rather seek externally funded consultancies or other more lucrative sources of income outside the university.
Thus, a single chapter of doctoral work may be delayed for six months or more in the hands of a supervisor.
Even more frustrating after a doctoral thesis has been completed and submitted are protracted delays in examining by internal and external examiners.
In some cases, theses have been lost by examiners and recovered and lost again.
In several other cases, new examiners have had to be nominated to replace delinquent ones who get blacklisted.
A few desertations have been delayed by examiners for close to two years.
Lecturers with PhD
Referring to an earlier announcement last week by the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, that henceforth only those with PhD would be allowed to lecture in the university, the Vice Chancellor of UG, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, said even though the UG was marginally higher than the 50 per cent bench mark by the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), it would continue to work towards ensuring that all its lecturers held PhDs.
He said currently, 62 per cent of lecturers of the university had PhD, 12.5 per cent were at various levels of obtaining PhD, with the remaining 14.5 per cent yet to pursue PhD.