2017 Education and Research Evaluation

Research Capacity in the New Global Development Agenda

Måns Fellesson

This study starts out from the fact that the main determinant of poverty in many low-income countries today is not a lack of natural resources or geographical marginality, but a lack of trained, specialised individuals who could generate context-specific knowledge and solutions to challenges in society and contribute to prosperous, sustainable development.

Since the early 1970s, the importance of institutional capacity for STI in low-income countries has been a guiding principle of Swedish development aid for research. The great confidence in the modality of PhD training (the Sandwich model) seems to have overshadowed the need for systematic examination of the long-term outcome in relation to changing conditions for research production.

Drawing on primary data, this study aims to examine career development with regard to mobility, collaboration and scientific output among Swedish development aid-funded PhD graduates from Mozambique, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The study is based on primary data collected 2012 – 2014, covering PhD graduates in the three countries that took their exams from 1990 to 2014. The study is based on a mixed methods approach, and data is collected using surveys and in-depth interviews.

The report was one of two reports presented during the seminar Swedish Research Aid.

Results (selection)

  • There has been a significant increase in institutions and students but not any noteworthy measures in terms of additional resources.
  • Long-term donor support to raise research qualifications among university staff members at the national universities seems not to have resulted in any notable expansion or intensification of research activities, measured in time and available funding for research, after they completed their PhDs. Lack of resources for research after graduation and the current expansion of undergraduate enrolment are the two main impediments to the emergence of a research culture at the universities of concern, which undoubtedly have a negative effecton scientific output
  • The level of international, sectoral and vertical mobility of the PhD graduates are generally low. The majority of PhD graduates in all three countries are still in academia and has remained at the same university. Europe and other African countries seem to be the prime destinations among those with mobility experience.

Recommendations (selection)

  • The significance of capacity for science, technology and innovation inlow-income countries for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the
    SDGs needs to be acknowledged.
  • Development aid for research needs to be part of Swedishinternationalisation in higher education and research.
  • Create policy incentives for increased collaboration between development aid for research and national higher education and research.

On an operational level the following recommendations should be considered:

  • The post-doc situation and the conditions for research after graduation need to be addressed.
  • Increase the support for PhD training as the backbone of bilateral research collaboration.
  • Address and clarify the role of the support for research capacity building in relation to the current development in higher education.
  • Maintain the concentration of support for PhD training on the national universities.
  • Address the premises of the relational orders in international collaboration.
  • The scientific output of the PhD graduates needs to be further examined.

Måns Fellesson, PhD in Sociology, Uppsala University