CARTA’S 2ND VICE CHANCELLOR’S MEETING
Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA)
University of Nairobi (UoN)
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The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) is a south-south partnership with a south-north collaboration jointly led by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya, and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), South Africa. The consortium is built on a merit driven system that ensures transparency and accountability to its members. It was formed with a mandate of establishing a vibrant African academy able to lead world-class multidisciplinary research that impacts on population and health. CARTA was formed in 2008 out of the realization that individual African universities lack the human and financial resources and infrastructural capacity to tackle the challenges of doctoral training on the continent. CARTA offers a well thought out approach to rebuild and to strengthen the capacity of African universities to produce world-class researchers, research leaders, and scholars. Since 2008, CARTA has been pursuing the goal of re-launching African universities as central actors in the production of rigorous high-quality research for Africa’s development. The African-led nature of CARTA and its focus on sustainable, measurable changes in research capacity and output are in tandem with the current emphasis on home grown and intellectually sound solutions to the problem of sustainable capacity for research for health and development in Africa. CARTA’s high-level goal is to establish a vibrant African academy able to lead world-class multidisciplinary research that impacts positively on public and population health through: a), strengthening doctoral training in Africa to enhance the local production of well-trained researchers and scholars; and b), improving the institutional capacity of participating African universities to support high-quality research by improving research infrastructure, strengthening research project development and grant-writing skills, enhancing research management and administration, and establishing appropriate policies and incentives. To achieve the objectives of CARTA, the collaboration of partner institutions is crucial. In this way, the buy-in at the highest level, usually the Vice Chancellors of Universities and their equivalents in research institutions is critical. It is against this backdrop that CARTA organized the 2nd Vice Chancellor’s meeting. The University of Nairobi (UoN) and CARTA were proud to host the two day 2nd Vice Chancellor’s meeting from 10-11 July 2017 at the UoN Towers, Main Campus. The participants for this meeting were largely Vice Chancellors from member Universities, Heads of partner institutions, and Northern Partner Representatives. Purpose of the meeting The meeting aimed to provide a forum for Vice Chancellors and Heads of CARTA partner institutions to deliberate on the progress and future directions of CARTA and contribute to a position paper on Research funding landscape and doctoral training in Africa. The specific objectives for the meeting were 1. To share the findings from discussions with Vice Chancellors of CARTA partner universities on Research funding landscape and doctoral training in Africa and provide opportunities for additional inputs to finalize the report for publication in a reputable journal; 2. To update on CARTA’s progress to-date and its future directions; 3. To update on CARTA’s engagement with each university and opportunities to strengthen these engagements; and 4. To deliberate on the best strategies for institutionalization of CARTA at partner universities, including the future of CARTA graduates and how best to support them to become research leaders and change agents in their universities. The set outcomes of the meeting included: 1. A manuscript for publication in a reputable journal on the Research funding landscape and doctoral training in Africa that will be used as a basis for engaging national, regional, continental, and donor stakeholders on the issue of strengthening research and doctoral training among higher education institutions in Africa. 2. Learning from one another on how best to address the challenges that affect postgraduate and research training in African universities. 3. Jointly developing workable formulae for post-doctoral trajectories for CARTA and other recent graduates and how they can be utilized effectively in teaching, research and management. Discussions With the growing concerns about the unique challenges facing doctoral training, CARTA set off to offer solutions for improving the quality of doctoral training in Kenya. The workshop discussions revolved around funding and differentiation, uncontrolled/rapid expansion (massification) of universities, internal accountability & governance and leadership and management capacity issues. From the discussions, it was apparent that African universities must find ways to resolve the resource constraint working against graduate training. Despite the very critical challenges African universities face, there are still opportunities. The idea of forming consortia is critical to deal with the challenges faced but there has to be mutual respect and willingness to allow this happen. From the discussions, it was evident that PhD students should be assisted to publish on high impact journals. There is also need for major investments in universities with regards to research and development. This two-day meeting also focused on reflections on CARTA and the role it is playing in PhD training. The consortium’s contribution to higher education in the continent cannot be over emphasised and its commitment to strengthen the capacity of partner institutions is to be commended too. Outcome From this two-day discussions, it emerged that there are specific challenges that doctoral training has faced over the past and this includes the structure of PhD training and the way training is done. In the past, the time it took to complete a PhD was on average 10 years. This brought about the need for a new orientation. There was a window of opportunity to reevaluate how African postdoctoral training was done which led to the birth of CARTA. As part of rethinking the African reality, there is need for African Universities to produce globally competitive scholars and recognize the need to transform their programs delivery. Individually, despite how well-endowed a university was or is; it does not have the capacity to produce quality graduates. This calls for training of the next generation of researchers to become research leaders and adjust the different levels of the training system to suit African needs. It is therefore clear that universities’ transformation can only come from within. Way forward To create change in African Universities, there is need for change of mindsets, attitudes and hierarchies in African universities. This calls for building of core research competencies including both soft (negotiation, networking and fundraising skills) and hard skills (ability to analyze research data, interpret and communicate). The standard of excellence should however be on the level of international standards for the scholars to fit in the global market and compete competitively. The meeting resolved that there is also need for new innovative solutions to confront new challenges that African Universities face. Transforming PhD courses is critical and this transformation should be multi-dimensional; it must involve mentorship and intellectual stimulation. The transformation should focus on having intellectuals that will stimulate the PhD students. Transformation also calls for support such as funding, infrastructure, software, hardware and individual incentives. With respect to the CARTA program, the meeting recommended that there is need for regular communication and constant ongoing dialogue between member Universities and CARTA. Vice Chancellors need to reflect on the differential initiative demonstrated by academics in taking up opportunities globally. There has to be development of joint proposals and academia should also take the initiative to develop joint proposals in research. Universities must however incentivize the individual academics to participate in activities like joint publications and development of research collaboration. They should also find ways of ensuring that CARTA achievements are shared with the entire university community. Finally, the meeting resolved that African universities must frame a narrative that will create the imperative for governments to realize that it is their role to fund research and development in the African continent. Firstly, the narrative must be right to see inclusive development and addressing of challenges such as unemployment and the economy must be grown in an inclusive way with high quality skills by universities. The training should also be geared towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). African Governments must identify which development partners can be approached to support research and development activities in Universities. Perhaps there is need to build on the capacity of African institutions as well for effective management of research funds.
CitationCARTA’s 2nd Vice-Chancellor’s Meeting _ Meeting proceedings July 10-11, 2017.Council Chamber. University of Nairobi
University of Nairobi