There is need for change in the way graduate students are handled if the University is to realize its Research- led agenda.
This was said by The Deputy Principal College of Engineering, Design Art and technology (CEDAT), Assoc. Prof. Kizito Maria Kasule who also called increased attention given to graduate students through whom the university will realize its objectives, mission and vision.
While speaking duringa colloquium for Ph.D. students’ orientation held on October 25th 2023 in the CEDAT conference Hall, Assoc. Prof. Kizito Maria Kasule noted that the students were not getting the due attention they deserve and called for a change of approach and mindset from those that administer the programs.
‘We have to admit that sometimes we have not been there for our students. At times there has not been any follow up about the students we are supervising’, said the Deputy Principal who is also in charge of the administration of the academic programs in the college.
While making reference to a university where he went for his postgraduate program, Assoc. Prof. Maria Kizito said the day he stepped in the lecture room is the same day he was told when he would sit for his final examinations, the day for his graduation and exit from the university premises.
He said at MakerereUniversity, there was need to address in-house problems as managers and supervisors. He noted that there were a number of University staff taking on Ph.D. programs because it was now mandatory for them as lectures and therefore were faced with a number of challenges that are both financial and occupational. He pledged the support of his office as Deputy Principal in helping students with issues that may hinder their progress.
He also encouraged the students to make use of the office of the Director Counselling and guidance. ‘You may think that you do not have problems but as you get along you realize you have baskets of challenges. Do not keep them to yourselves, rather seek support’, he emphasized.
The Dean, School of the Built Environment Assoc. Prof. Anthony Gidudu while welcoming the students to the first ever Ph.D. colloquium said that CEDAT prides itself in the fact that it is the home of innovation. ‘As PhD students, you are integralto the University vision of being research led and that the objective behind the colloquium was to change the narrative from adhoc to a more streamlined approach in the management of graduate studies.
We want to create a platform to enable sharing of knowledge, skills, resources and to make your PhD journey vibrant, productive and fruitful’ said Assoc. Prof. Gidudu.
He said the meeting was an opportunity for the students to interact with various offices that are instrumental in their academic journey irrespective of whether one was starting, or at the level of completion and are about to graduate. The relevant offices included the Directorate of research and Graduate Training (DRGT), the College Registrar and Bursar among others.
Ms. Hellen Ssali Kalema the College Registrar commended the School of the Built Environment for giving the Ph.D. students the opportunity to get to know the processes and procedures they need to follow while pursuing their studies. She said there was a tendency of thinking that graduate students know it all and focus put on guiding the undergraduate students. ‘We think that you are problem free and you decided to take up your studies at the time of your choice and that you are prepared, and therefore we overlook the challenges you face’ said the Registrar.
We have challenges with the Ph.D. students she observed, because they come in at any time and individually. Even ourselves as the administrative team, we need to re-orient ourselves from the undergraduate students whose work is easier since they do everything as a group at the same time.
She noted that a number of the Ph.D. students were not registered and therefore the office of the registrar did not have adequate information concerning their numbers and reminded them of the need to register twice every year and to utilize her office whenever need arose.She noted that although they belong to the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training, the College was directly responsible to ensure they have a smooth stay and serve as a link whenever faced with challenges.
She referred them to the graduate training handbook to get acquitted with the provisions for Ph.D. students. As registrars, we are here to ensure that the University polices are implemented, she stressed, and further advised them to formalize withdrawals from the program by writing to the Deputy Principal whenever necessary.
Mr. Joram Tugumisirize from the Bursars office noted that his office works alongside that of the Registrar but focused on the financial side. He said when the students enroll as guided by the Registrar, the system derives the monies expected of them. He noted that many students get admitted and do not bother to register but only come at the time of thesis submission. ‘In as much as you are a PhD student, you are expected to interact with the system so that you get your financial statement’. He said his office is mandated to include information about students when making financial reports to various levels, and encouraged them to enroll in order to report appropriately.
The Director of Makerere University Counselling and Guidance Centre, Mr. Henry Nsubuga, in his address emphasized the need for mental health services. He said quite a number of students need the services and given the Ph.D. journey, many issues were bound to come up along the way, affecting the progress pointing out issues of finances, work related stress factors, family and many more. ‘Mental health issues affect us more than even the physical issues. So much happens to us and takes toll on our mental health’ he observed while stressing the need for mental health first aid.
He summarized the actions in acronyms ABCDE, that entail ‘Affect’ which is a measure of how one feels, sadness, embarrassment, fear. He said the way one feels will affect one’s mental state.
He said the Behavior will affect what is going on in one’s life for instance failure to say no, or increased work related assignments that may affect academic progress.
The ‘C’ he said stands for the ‘cognitive’ which describes what is going on in one’s life. He said it was important to check what we think about and how it affects academic progress and in life in general. ‘I want to emphasize that our no as Ph.D. students must become more for many things now’. The biggest challenge is that when you do not say no many times, time runs very fast and you end up in trouble.
The ‘D’ he said refers to Developmental whereby as adults with many responsibilities, or seniority at work, which is challenging. He said quite often many people model their behavior depending on us. He said it was important to let the people know that they would put away some assignments in order to concentrate on the academics.
The ‘E’ refers to the environment which he said are attimesis toxic or resourceful. If it is not helpful, you need to find a way of running away from it or else it will distort your journey.
He encouraged the students to start Graduate dissertation support groups which would be very useful in offering continuous support with the participation of a therapist. Through sharing experiences by members, students get ways of getting around some of the challenges they face. He said the activities involved in undertaking a Ph.D. were majorly mental and that the students need a clear state of mind to be able to accomplish.