Postgraduate Student Research Realities in Uganda

Postgraduate Student Research Realities in Uganda

Joseph Ssenyonga (University of Konstanz, Germany) and Proscovia B. Nakiganda (Genesis (Quinnipiac Valley Center), USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0264-8.ch009


Globally, there is a high quest for graduate education with many prospective students aspiring to attain advanced qualifications to obtain a better career path and higher income. Besides, postgraduate education fosters skills development. However, in Uganda, many students enroll in different graduate programs but fail to complete them in the stipulated timeframe. Furthermore, most of the master's students tend to successfully finish their first year which basically has the coursework component yet fail to complete the second year that has the research component. Doctoral students make little progress when it comes to their research. The authors will examine general research preparation, writing, and methodology skills that are critical to graduate studies and research. With the necessary support, mentoring, and planning, graduate research can be made a better process for students and supervisors.
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In this chapter, we shall interrogate the issues associated with graduate research in Uganda and provide insights on how supervisors and students can learn from best research practices and advice so that both can profit from the research experience and make it fruitful. These will be explored with a focus on selected Ugandan universities.

Overview of Higher Education, Postgraduate Enrollment and Completion Rates

Investing in postgraduate education is associated with skills acquisition, better pay, or a new job. Research shows that postgraduate education imparts skills including critical thinking, innovation, decision making and problem-solving, that are relevant to the real-world situation (Oluwajodu, Blaauw, Greyling, & Kleynhans, 2015; Serrano, Llamazares, & Otamendi, 2015). Besides employable postgraduates possess skills including discipline-specific skills, generic skills like teamwork and numeracy, self-management skills for example work-life balance, and career building necessary to traverse and progress in the world of work (Bridgstock, 2009).

Likewise, postgraduate training enables students to concurrently attained both theoretical and practical knowledge (Jonck, 2014). For instance, postgraduate students attain practical experience when they assist in the teaching at universities and at times they have hours of supervised practicum. No wonder there is an increase in the number of skilled and knowledgeable work-ready postgraduates (Núñez & Livanos, 2010) who can obtain and maintain work besides contributing to national development.

Globally there is an increase in student enrollment in higher education especially in North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region (Mok, 2016). The U.S, Japan, and Western Europe registered not only over 50% tertiary education enrollment but also above 30% graduation quotas. However, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest participation rate and graduation rates in higher education compared to other regions in the world (Teichler, 2001).

With all the anticipated outcomes of postgraduate education, there is a need to take a close look at the actual graduate education process with respect to Uganda a country that has 51 universities (17.6% public) that admit students to various postgraduate programs (National Council for Higher Education, 2018). Tertiary education enrollment at Ugandan universities was relatively low at 4% coupled with lower completion rates (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2017).

Matriculation at Ugandan universities was 186,412 (56% male). Interestingly, available data showed that only 17,895 students from five public institutions successfully completed their studies and were awarded various academic qualifications. Generally, the completion of postgraduate studies was relatively low despite the high matriculation (National Council for Higher Education, 2018; SME Division Education Planning and Policy Analysis Department Ministry of Education & Sports, 2017). Only the graduate students enrolled for postgraduate diplomas tended to complete their studies in the allotted one-year time frame. Essentially, many of the students who enrolled for different postgraduate programs failed to complete their studies in the stipulated timeframe.

Furthermore, most of the masters’ students successfully finished their first year which basically has the coursework component yet do not succeed in completing the second year that has the research component. Besides doctoral students make little progress when it comes to their research projects. This implies that postgraduate students face challenges related to research.

This is not a Uganda specific issue, but it has been documented worldwide. There is a noted tendency for students to “complete their postgraduate studies” without actually attaining any academic credential (Teichler, 2000). Diverse reasons have been advanced to explain the low retention and graduation rates of postgraduate students. However, the general agreement is that most students don’t complete postgraduate research because of institutional and personal reasons (Atibuni, Kibanja, Olema, & Ssenyonga, 2017; Atibuni, Olema, et al., 2017; Muriisa, 2015). Additionally, universities’ lack qualified research supervisors who are ready to take on the graduate supervision challenge (Kyaligonza, Kimoga, & Nabayego, 2015).

Therefore, with improved access to tertiary education, the challenge to Sub-Saharan Africa universities will be the attraction of topnotch students who will be able to succeed in their postgraduate studies with the relevant skills that are required for national development. On their part, universities need to have the best academic personnel who will be able to guide and mentor postgraduate students especially during their research.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Graduate Research Process: Procedure through which graduate students with the guidance of their supervisors identify a researchable topic, develop a full proposal, conduct the actual research, and engage in a thesis or dissertation writing.

Research Rules and Regulations: Acceptable standards and procedures that govern graduate research.

Methodological Skills: Competencies of graduate students that will enable them conduct acceptable independent research that will culminate into writing a thesis or dissertation.

Graduate Student: a scholar who has been admitted and enrolled at a university or degree awarding institution on full-time or part time basis to pursue graduate studies.

General Research Preparation: Ground work, prior planning and preparations that are necessary before the graduate student embarks on their research.

Graduate Research Supervisor: university or degree awarding institution appointed academic staff with the requisite expert knowledge, research supervisory competence and adequate time available to guide graduate students make research progress including coming up with researchable ideas, developing a proposal, conducting research, writing a thesis or dissertation and publishing their research findings.

Writing Competencies: ability to use the discipline specific writing style to correspond efficiently with the scientific group and the general populace.

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