AFRICA

Pan African University’s growing PhD graduation numbers

The Pan African University has made further strides in meeting its mandate as a postgraduate training institution, qualifying 16 doctoral students recently at two of its institutes – the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences (PAULESI) in Nigeria, and the Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) in Kenya.

The recent graduations (11 at PAULESI and five at PAUSTI) bring to 27 the number of those who have obtained PhDs from the continental university since its launch in December 2011, with 14 having graduated from the Kenyan node in July this year.

The Pan African University (PAU) is a postgraduate training and research network of university nodes in five regions, supported by the African Union and the Association of African Universities.

Growing opportunities

Computational Mathematics doctoral graduate Osman Shaibu is grateful to the African Union for giving him an opportunity to realise his dream of studying in a multicultural environment, interacting with students from across Africa, and becoming a mathematician.

“I am very thankful to the AU for this opportunity to help me realise my dream in the best way I could. I had the possibility to work on my own ideas, reconcile theory and applications in mathematics, and I took it,” said the Ghanaian.

Shaibu is one of the five PhD graduates of PAUSTI, based at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya.

His colleague, Hamidou Mouridi Mhoussini, from Comoros also graduated with a doctorate in mathematics-statistics after being granted a scholarship to study in a field of his choice. He intends to pursue his passion for fighting zoonotic diseases.

“I was given the opportunity to interact with students across the African continent which has really impacted on me positively; the differences in cultural and religious backgrounds gave me an overview of the sources of challenges confronting the continent. I have come to the realisation that Africa’s problems can only be solved by Africans”, he told University World News in an interview.

Increasing graduations

According to PAU rector Belay Kassa, students were already engaged in cutting-edge research leading to “novel” innovations and products, a fact he said was demonstrated by two recently graduated students who have successfully filed for patents.

The pair, Judith Nwagbogu and Ronald Tonui, have filed patent applications on an anticancer nano-formulation, and a diagnostic kit for detecting maize chlorotic mottle virus and sugarcane mosaic virus respectively, he revealed.

PAU currently has an enrolment of 1,370 students drawn from 40 AU member states, a third of them being female. According to Kassa, the university is growing in popularity as exemplified by more than 30,000 applicants from 53 countries for the 2018-19 academic year.

Growth

According to the chairman of the university governing council Pierre Dominique Nzinzi, between the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19 alone, the number of students who applied to join PAU institutes increased by 241%.

Over the past five years, PAU has produced a total of 643 graduates (462 men and 181 women) from 46 countries. In addition to the 27 PhDs, 616 were masters students, he said. The university had also awarded scholarships to about 1,386 students.

“Likewise, the number of member states benefitting from the Pan African University scholarship award increased from 21 in 2012-13 to 35 in 2015-16 and 53 in 2017-18”, Nzinzi said.

PAU currently operates from four institutes including PAUSTI (Kenya) and PAULESI (at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria). Others are the Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Science (PAUGHSS) at Cameroon’s University of Yaoundé II, and the Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) hosted by Algeria’s University of Tlemcen.

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology will host the fifth node, the Institute of Space Sciences (PAUSS).