PASET makes available 116 PhD scholarship opportunities

In spite of the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, African scholars have reason to be optimistic as the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology or PASET has made available an unprecedented number of PhD scholarships – a total of 116 – to aspiring African scientists through its flagship Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF).

“This is one of the greatest number of PhD scholarships offered by a Sub-Saharan Africa programme that fully covers costs for PhD training,” said Moses Osiru, RSIF Regional Coordination Unit manager.

The doctoral scholarships will be offered in selected African priority areas in the applied sciences, engineering and technology, and are tenable at leading African universities across Africa.

They include the universities of Nairobi and Kenyatta in Kenya, Sokoine University of Agriculture and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania, and the University of Port Harcourt and Bayero University in Nigeria. Also hosting the studies are the University of Rwanda, the University of Ghana, Senegal’s Gaston Berger University, and Côte d’Ivoire’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny University.

Building teaching and research capacity

The competitive scholarships will contribute to strengthening teaching and research capacity in universities since the programme will prioritise teaching staff in institutions.

“The scholarship will cover costs of research, a stipend for up to four years, internship at an advanced research institution anywhere in the world, and tuition fees. Successful candidates will also benefit from RSIF research grants,” Osiru told University World News.

“The scholarships highlight the commitment of the founding members of PASET – the governments of Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire – to support the building of science capacity on the continent,” he said.

Since the establishment of the PASET-RSIF initiative, Ghana and Burkina Faso have also joined, while Nigeria, Benin, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Mauritius and Uganda have all expressed interest.

Each government makes a minimum contribution of US$2 million to the programme used for supporting PhD scholarships. Key external partners to the programme include the government of South Korea and the World Bank.

While students from across the continent are eligible to apply, the majority of scholarships will go to contributing member countries. Priority will be given to women and young academic faculty who do not have a PhD.

The scholarships cover a period of three to four years, including up to 24 months ‘sandwich’ placement at an international partner university, research institution or private company.

Online selection procedure

While 15 June is set as the final date for application, awards will take place in September. The selection process is expected to proceed smoothly online despite the COVID-19 emergency. The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), which hosts the programme, has in place measures to ensure safety of programme staff for continuous implementation during the crisis, according to Osiru.

Applicants will make use of online platforms to provide video interviews for assessment, and reviewers will provide evaluation remotely. Once selected, some elements may be undertaken remotely.

“RSIF is working to support the creation of simple platforms to support remote learning, supervision and mentorship for the students. The students will be expected to follow relevant guidelines for management of COVID-19 and we hope that in due course, field activities will be possible,” Osiru said.

The current and the third call is a major milestone in terms of numbers of beneficiaries. The first call in 2018 saw 15 students receive awards, while the second sponsored 64.