Project reports

Survey of Doctoral Students in Africa and Europe

Preliminary Report as part of the DocLinks project needs analysis

Julie Stackhouse - Association of Commonwealth Universities


Doctoral students in Europe and Africa were surveyed during January to March 2012 to inform the needs analysis for the DocLinks Project. An online survey was designed and administered which covered study details, funding, supervision and training, IT resources, international experience and networking and future aspirations. This was distributed throughout Africa via the ACU’s Research Management Network and via project partners: AUF, AAS, UniPid, University of Botswana and IPARCD. It was also distributed to Commonwealth Scholars in the UK by ACU and more widely in Europe by EURODOC and other partners.

A large amount of data has been received. The analysis which follows is based largely on the quantitative data received from 461 responses and aims to provide early input into the project design. It is anticipated that a fuller report, including more qualitative analysis, will be distributed later in the year.

Initial findings in brief:

Mode of study and funding

  • A much higher proportion of African respondents studying in Africa (AA) (42%) were studying part-time and were more likely to be doing so while fully employed by their university.
  • European respondents studying in Europe (EE) were more likely than the AA group to have a full scholarship. 73% as opposed to 19% of the African respondents studying in Africa.
  • Partial funding was most common in the African candidates studying in Africa (36%) and often took the form of fee waivers and grants from their institutions. Where international or local bodies were cited these were quite diverse and often discipline specific
  • Information on relevant international funding opportunities was one of the mostly highly rated items in terms of what would be most useful.

Supervision, training and skills

  • Although most respondents were fairly satisfied with supervision around a quarter of all respondents had face to face meetings less often than once a month including 19% of the AA group who met less often than once every three months (as compared to 5% of the EE group).
  • In terms of skills, most respondents were least confident in their grants/funding proposal writing skills and research and project management skills and these were the areas where more respondents (around a third) indicated they needed further training.
  • Less marked, AA group respondents tended to be slightly more confident in terms of research methods and writing skills while EE group were slightly more confident on their theoretical and IT skills.

Internet resources and use

  • Internet access and use varied to some extent between groups but was overall quite high. Two-thirds of respondents overall spent more than 10 hours a week using an internet connected computer – from 58% in the AA group to 91% in the EE group.
  • Only 7% of respondents relied solely on shared computing facilities at their university ranging from 3% of the EE group to 9% of the AA group.
  • 66% of EE respondents were able to use wifi on campus to access the internet via their own laptops as opposed to 27% of the AA group.
  • Respondents studying in Africa were a little less likely to use the internet at home (76% as opposed to 95% of the EE group) and more likely to use internet cafes – 23% as opposed to 15% of the EE group.

International and networking experience

  • Almost all respondents were very positive about wanting to increase their international experience
  • 20% of respondents were members of international subject based associations (15% AA, 29% EE
  •  Existing international experience tended to be conference attendance with some collaboration, particularly in the EE group.
  • Almost all the items suggested under the programme were positively rated – including online training, networking opportunities and residential schools. The AA and AE groups were most positive on these.
  • African respondents were more positive about interacting with students in other regions than were European respondents.
  • Opportunities for networking with doctoral students within the same country and region were highly rated by all as were details of relevant international funding opportunities.

Future aspirations

  •  Most African respondents anticipated being employed in their home countries while more European respondents (44%) did not.
  •  Most respondents anticipated being employed in the Academic research sector with the EE group being more open to working in non-academic research in both the private and public sector.

Icon download PDF of the report (87.7 KB)

Report - Supporting doctoral education in Africa

by Jonathan Harle

A review of doctoral student needs and existing initiatives to support doctoral training and research development.             

A needs analysis undertaken as part of the DocLinks project.

Icon Doctoral Education in Africa (218.1 KB)