IFGH 2012: PhD Programme for Health Systems Research Capacity Strengthening in Africa

January 27, 2012

Authors:Awor A.1, Brugha R.1, Byrne E.1 Maniple E.1, Thomas S.2, Connecting health Research in Africa and Ireland Consortium (ChRAIC)3

Author Affiliations:1Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, 2Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, 3ChRAIC is a partnership of: College of Medicine, Malawi; Makerere University School of Public health (MUSPH), Uganda; Malaria Consortium, South Sudan and Uganda; Medical Research Centre (MRC), Sierra Leone; Ministry of Health, Republic of South Sudan; National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), Ireland; National University of Lesotho; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI); Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Centre for Global Health, Ireland; University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan. Additional support to the partnership is provided by two organizations based at the World Health Organization in Geneva, the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR) and the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED)

 Option 2 – lessons from the field; project and programme evaluations; and syntheses or analyses. Presented as – Poster


This paper outlines and presents lessons learned from a PhD programme within Connecting health Research in Africa and Ireland Consortium (ChRAIC) – a health systems research capacity development collaboration. The PhD component is a partnership of the National University of Ireland, Galway, RCSI and Trinity College Dublin.


ChRAIC has 8 registered PhD students from Ireland, Malawi, North Sudan, Uganda and The Gambia. Five received ChRAIC scholarships and 3 are alternatively funded. Lessons are based on: (i) Individual self administered evaluation forms by students on each of the taught modules, (ii) Group feedback through end of year student feedback meetings, (iii) ChRAIC PhD student input into the 6 monthly donor reports for the programme and (iv) Telephone interviews with the ChRAIC country team investigators on links between the PhD programme and the ChRAIC research

 PhD student responses were largely positive, focusing on the:

  • PhD taught course
  • Opportunity to mix with other PhD and Master students in different courses
  • Exposure to different cultures and other parts of Ireland
  • Level of supervision, types of assessment and feedback received
  • Insights gained into different teaching styles and skills, and;
  • The importance of doing contextually relevant research

 Down-sides included:

  • A PhD programme with an initial 9-12 months in Ireland is very expensive
  • PhD students networked successfully with other students, supervisors and lecturers, but not with their country ChRAIC research teams
  • Poor internet access and telecommunication, frustrated students (who felt isolated) and exacerbated supervisors’ difficulties in maintaining regular monitoring of students’ progress and diagnosing reasons underlying delayed progress

 Next steps:We propose an enhanced role for Distance Learning (DL) training, where students remain in their home country and access bespoke DL electronic learning resources with occasional in-country workshops. Contributing DL resources to in-country academic programmes could help strengthen linkages with local research supervisors and local research networks



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