Strengthening PhD Training – Introduction of Course Work and Practical Training

RIPS has moved from the past where it focused heavily on M. A. training to a stage where PhD training has become more prominent. This has mainly been achieved through an excellent collaboration with Penn State University (PSU) – which has a sandwich programme in which RIPS students spend one year. The year in residence at PSU facilitates student professional development and our students come back with a sounder knowledge of dissertation proposal writing, exposure to top library facilities, frequent experience of research seminar series’, and the opportunity to receive mentoring from leading external researchers, many of whom will remain in the students’ intellectual networks, long after their PhDs.

As Principal Investigator of the African Adaptation Research Centre (AARC) project, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Director of the Carolina Population Center (CPC) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), for a similar collaboration. The UNC-CH collaboration provides more opportunities for students, as the RIPS’ PhD cohorts increase, and particularly for those who work in the area of population-environment relationships. Other potential collaborators include the University of Amsterdam, New York University and Aalborg University, Denmark.

Furthermore, I strongly believe that PhD students should undertake coursework; I cannot conceive that spending one’s last four years towards a PhD (including the 2nd year of the M. Phil) in a situation where one is not taking any courses is the best thing to do in a career that requires knowledge of cutting edge approaches. I therefore endorse the University of Ghana’s change from where the advanced research degree is ‘by research (alone)’ to one that includes relevant course  work as well as non-credit courses (on skillful writing, proposal development, advanced analytical techniques, etc.) that are value-adding and enhance the professional skills of PhD and M. Phil students.  I will continue the RIPS policy of attracting international students and bring the best postgraduate minds to RIPS, which will grow University of Ghana’s revenue from post-graduate tuition.

Regarding practical training, RIPS has established a research field site in an urban poor community in Ga-Mashie, Accra. The proximity allows for the regular integration of field lessons into classroom teaching. Repeated surveys on population, health, poverty as well as climate change issues among the urban poor are being conducted at 18-month intervals. This is providing a unique opportunity for rigorous training in research methodology, and it is also leading to the creation of high-quality longitudinal data for use by students and staff as well as in programming and planning. My vision is to sustain this site and cultivate another research site in a peri-urban or rural setting under the auspices of our imminent Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) project.