Fellowship Program to Boost Number of Well-Trained Social Science Professors in Five African Countries

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Thirty-six Ph.D. candidates in the social sciences have been selected by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) for a competitive fellowship program based on the quality and originality of their work.

The program addresses a lack of adequate numbers of faculty holding a Ph.D. in universities in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda, a deficit that undermines vital efforts to expand access to higher education in Africa.

Ira Katznelson, President of the SSRC, states, “We are delighted to support the work of a promising new generation of scholars, who will return to their universities better situated to mentor students and provide leadership to their departments and in their chosen fields of study.”

Over two years, the SSRC has offered 69 fellowships, significantly strengthening the teaching and research capacity of universities in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as augmenting the pool of potential researchers, policy makers and academics in those countries.

The Next Generation program offers three distinct fellowship opportunities to support fellows at crucial moments in graduate training for faculty who hold a master’s degree but have yet to complete the doctoral degree, often due to crushing teaching loads and a lack of funding opportunities for research and writing. The first fellowship opportunity, the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, provides training for research proposal development and an opportunity to undertake preliminary research to inform the development of the proposal. The second, the dissertation research fellowship, supports 9-12 months of intensive research. The third, the Dissertation Completion Fellowship, provides fellows with a leave from their teaching responsibilities in order to allow fellows time to complete the dissertation.

This year the SSRC will provide 19 awards to proposal development fellows, eight to research fellows, and nine to dissertation completion fellows.

Thomas Asher, Director of the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa Program, says, “The results of the first year were impressive and we anticipate comparable production for the new cohort of fellows.” He points to results that include 12 faculty members already having earned their doctoral degrees and many more within months of finishing. He also observes that of the 14 fellows supported for research, these fellows completed on average 1.8 chapters of their dissertations, preparing them to make rapid progress toward completion of the studies supported by the fellowship program over the next year.

This year four former research fellows return to the program, now as completion fellows.  Other former fellows were awarded prestigious grants to continue their graduate studies, including grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the Dutch government.

Upon completion of their fellowships, these social scientists are better positioned to compete for other awards, as well as position themselves as leaders in discussions about pressing needs in Africa, propose effective solutions, and contribute to international social science literature on these issues.

Fellows from the new cohort work on a range of topics that relate to peace, security, and development issues. This includes a project on climate change and insecurity on the Lake Chad basin, a project on land tenure and resettlement in northern Uganda, and a comparative project exploring the role of women in parliament in post-genocide Rwanda and post-Apartheid South Africa.

The fellows were selected through a rigorous-peer review process, involving two rounds of review, the first including 51 Africa-based researchers, and the second convening six leaders in African social sciences to select the finalists.

“With the fastest-growing rates of higher education enrollment in the world as well as evidence demonstrating tertiary education’s impact on economic growth, poverty reduction, national health and governance, Africa’s universities are fast becoming one of the continent’s most important contributors to development,” said Andrea Johnson, Program Officer, Higher Education and Libraries in Africa at Carnegie Corporation. “The Fellows program helps to address the dearth of men and women entering academia as well as fill gaps in their preparation.”