The second day of our study visit has been dedicated to get to know in detail the issues related to doctoral studies and e-supervision at KU. We started the day with an inspiring presentation of Prof. Paul Okemo, Dean of the Graduate School, on research modules at KU.
According to Prof. Okemo, after the re-introduction of free primary education in Kenya under President Mwai Kibaki in 2003, a massification process of the universities started, reaching also postgraduate levels. The number of postgraduate students at KU went up from 3.716 in 2011 to 7.109 in 2013. Despite this increased intake of postgraduate students, the regulations regarding master’s and doctoral education, inherited mainly from the University of Nairobi as the “mother” of most of the higher education institutions currently existing in Kenya, remain more or less the same. As one of the consequences, the ratio of student – lecturer has increased greatly and it is difficult for the supervisor to stay in conduct with all his postgraduate students and effectively guide their research.
Introducing and consolidating e-supervision could be therefore very useful to reduce the workload of the professors. Nevertheless, this will not be possible without also promoting changes in the policies regarding doctoral education, offering, for example, the possibility to professors who do a lot of supervision to be exempted from teaching some units.
Other questions to take into consideration when thinking about the promotion of e-supervision are:
- Will it be possible to produce credible graduate students reducing the time spend physically on campus?
- Is it possible to use these innovative methods of supervision without compromising the quality of education and research?
- How do we benchmark with other universities around the world?
- How to promote a change of paradigm in order to foster the use of these innovative instruments?
Taking into consideration that the intake of graduate students still has to be increased and the lack of space to accommodate them, the lack of facilities to enable them to realize their goals and the lack of enough lecturers to attend them, e-supervision will have to play a key role in the future of doctoral education at KU.
In all this discussion, both the Catalan as well as the Kenyan universities must ask themselves how they can guarantee that the massification of education contributes to the socioeconomic development of their countries and does not produce a hemorrhage of students, emigrating to other countries.