Staff Development: CEES Lecturers get Graduate Supervision Training

Director-DRGT-Prof. Edward Bbaale (6th R), Principal CEES-Prof. Anthony M. Mugagga (5th R) and Deputy Principal CEES-Prof. Ronald Bisaso (7th L) with officials and staff at the opening ceremony of the two-day training in graduate supervision held on 10th August 2023, CEDAT Conference Hall, Makerere University.

Staff of the College of Education and External Studies (CEES) concluded a two-day training in graduate supervision, with a call to ensure students graduate on time. The call was made by the Principal of the College, Prof. Anthony Mugagga while opening the training on August 10, 2023. Prof Mugagga said the college has previously had a low completion rate for graduate students a thing attributed to delays in feedback from both the lecturers and students.  “We need to put in place a system that can prompt students and staff to give research feedback in time to allow more students to graduate,” he said. He said for Makerere to achieve her strategic goal of becoming a research-led University, the staff ought to contribute to this by improving graduate training for it is at the heart of this goal.

Prof. Mugagga said the college has introduced a graduate training accountability form, which will be used to track the progress of all students in an effort to see more students complete their studies.

Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga addresses the participants.

His remarks followed a presentation from the Deputy Principal, Prof. Ronald Bisaso, on the status of graduate training and CEES. Prof Bisaso shared that the college has between 2012 and 2023 had 114 students graduate with PhDs and has over 200 in the pipeline. He, however, noted that supervision has got some challenges which ought to be addressed by the senior staff of the college.

He said the 114 students had been supervised by a few staff, a thing he said needs to change to have more senior staff supervise students and ensure an increase in graduation/completion levels.

He urged the staff who recently acquired PhDs to engage in more research so that they too can help their students.

Prof. Ronald Bisaso makes his presentation.

He noted that a needs assessment had showed that the most successful researchers are those that engaged in inter-disciplinary research.

“A good number of recent PhDs in CEES including those recently promoted have a trans-disciplinary experience. This has potential for creating multi-disciplinary teams to conduct research,” Prof. Bisaso said. It is envisioned that this will also give an opportunity for graduate training scholarships for students.

Speaking at the opening of the training, Prof. Edward Bbaale, the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), appreciated the college management for the training, saying it is in line with the University’s strategic plan of being a research-led university. As the university moves into a research-led arena, it is envisioned that by 2030, the university will have an increase of 30% graduate students, 10% of whom are expected to be international students, Prof. Bbaale said. 

Prof. Edward Bbaale speaks at the opening of the Graduate Supervision Training.

He called for the establishment of research entities at college level to allow for joint proposal writing and inter-disciplinary research.

The Makerere University Innovation Centre, he mentioned, will be in charge of spurring innovation, patents and commercialization of the products developed from the research.

Prof. Bbaale informed the staff that DRGT was in the process of revising the graduate handbook and digitalizing graduate students’ records in an effort to tract their progress. He also said the university has gotten a donor to fund the construction of a graduate building which will have offices and study facilities. He said the university was moving into aligning graduate training with the university almanac so that exams and completion are done at the same time.

He appreciated the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, for steering the university into internationalization through the various collaborations and MoUs established.   

Some of the CEES Staff that attended the two-day training in graduate supervision.

During the training, one of the trainers, Prof. Betty Ezati said it was important for supervisors to understand that supervision is not conducted in a vacuum but it is a consequence of our ideologies, values and conceptions.

She called on them to help the students develop expertise that should eventually exceed that of the supervisor, work to grow friendships and professional links, help a candidate gain a wide range of perspectives by creating opportunities for mingling with other professions with the same cause and guard against sharing the student’s weaknesses with colleagues.

Prof. Ezati advised against taking a one-size-fits-all approach to students, saying the individuality of a student must be acknowledged. She also advised against focusing only on the intellectual issues at the expense of the student’s emotional needs, being patronizing, undermining the student’s culture and religious affiliations and being too rigid. 

Dr. Twine Bananuka shared with the trainees some best practices in supervision, which included; be purposeful in the task, balance formality and informality in the relations with the student, mind the social-cultural differences, have agreements and contracts, be value driven and accept your weaknesses and limitations.

While closing the two-day training, Dr. Misinde Cyprian, the Director, Quality Assurance Directorate (QAD) called on the staff to help students, saying many find it difficult to transition from the theoretical class of research methods to actually writing the research thesis, emphasizing that many need the help. He pledged DRGT’s support in organizing refresher courses for supervisors.

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