The University of Rwanda and the Swedish government are seeking to strengthen partnership in post-graduate study and research.
This was disclosed during the launch of the 3rd phase of the 12-year partnership in Kigali on Monday.
“The programme aims at improving research capacity and use of research knowledge at post-graduate level,” said Raymond Ndikumana, the partnership coordinator.
Under the five-year-deal (2013-2018), 60 Rwandans are to get PhD scholarships to Sweden, 90 research grants are to be issued locally, and the UR should have capacity to offer various PhD programmes by 2018.
Ndikumana said the partnership that started with the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in 2002 (before it was merged with others to form UR) , saw 200 students graduate with masters degrees while 59 were awarded PhD scholarships between 2003 and 2010.
“The UR partners with about 12 universities in Sweden. At masters level, lectures are conducted locally but at PhD, students have to travel to Sweden,” said Isabell Schierebeck, the deputy head of department of the School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (one of the partner Universities).
The Swedish government has invested $102m since 2002 in the partnership. Areas of study currently being covered at both levels include medicine, environment, ICT, as well as peace and conflict management.
Plans are underway to introduce others like masters in agriculture, applied statistics, economics and management, among others, by September 2015.
“Last year alone, under the same arrangement, 31 students got PhD scholarships, 39 research grants were given out and about Rwf900 million was released to enhance UR’s ICT and Library infrastructural capacity,” Ndikumana said.
Prof Verdiana Grace Masanja, the head of research and post graduate studies at UR, says the partnership has helped boost research capacity at the University and also increased the number of staff with post- graduate qualification.
“A lot has since changed; for instance in 2006, there were only 24 research publications, but by 2012, the number had grown to 600. And, as of 2006, 11 per cent of staff were in active research but this number grew to 58.6 per cent by 2012,” she said.
Ndikumana says the programmes that range from two to five years (both at masters and PhD level), have seen some students drop out mid way for various personal reasons.
Schierebeck also said that since English is not a native language for Rwandans, yet it is a medium of communication during study time, some students struggle in writing their thesis or academic articles.
“The formation of UR and the appointmentment of new management last year also caused delays in implementation of some of our goals,” Masanja concluded.