It is a truism that there are good and bad PhDs. Where does yours lie or where will it lie after your graduation in the continuum of bad to good? The implication of this question is that the quality of doctoral degrees can differ and does differ greatly sometimes. There may be some extremely good doctoral degrees and there may be some that have attempted to pass the rigor and vigor of the scientific method but may not be of a very high quality.
The recent disclosure that JKUAT awarded many PhDs to students who may not have been well prepared raises serious concerns. JKUAT may not be the only university with the problem that was highlighted. Some universities in Kenya are reputed to have cheap PhDs. Do not join such universities as you will regret finally when you find that you cannot participate in academic discourse in your area or cannot even write a journal article without eliciting outside help.
The PhD process is an intricate scientific investigation of phenomena that requires thorough preparation and adherence to established standards and measures of quality. It engenders rigor and vigor and students are expected to prepare thoroughly. It is feared that occasionally some students will cut corners and some seem to support the view that in some universities the standards are not enforced as per established criteria. In this case students will be poorly prepared. Anecdotal evidence on Kenyan PhDs seems to suggest that some PhDs are not good at all since the holders have not undergone the required rigor and vigor. How do we tell a PhD is good or bad? The first thing is to find out if your university has what it takes to produce quality graduates at PhD or any other level for that matter. The questions point to the issue of quality of education. There are many concerns today about the quality of education. With the globalization of education these concerns are even more urgent. The quality of education is determined by many factors in the Education Value Chain. If you want to make a judgment about a degree then you have to scrutinize the entire quality assurance process in the value chain and how a given university enforces set standards in every important aspect in the value chain. You must invest your time in this investigation. Your critical examination of the key issues must start with the issue of accreditation of a university and its programs. Has your degree program been accredited by a credible body such as Commission for University Education (CUE) in Kenya or Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in the USA or other bodies? If your program has not been accredited then you should be worried. Find out if your university is a member of such bodies as the Association of Africa Business Schools (AABS) and the Global Business School Network (GBSN) that help to advance the delivery of quality education in universities.
Supervising more than three PhD students in an academic year is a tall order. If your Supervisor has many PhD students then you are most likely getting a raw deal. Does your supervisor encourage rigorous quantitative analysis? Exceptions relate to some social sciences that are best based on qualitative analysis. In Kenya students undertaking PhDs/DBAs and business related ones must have both qualitative and quantitative analysis in their theses. This is the accepted norm.
Find out if your supervisors encourage active students’ involvement in academic associations such as the Doctoral Association of East Africa (DAEA) that is renowned for holding workshops for PhD students at all levels to encourage them to grow. Does your university encourage active students’ interaction and discussion with other doctoral students? The quality of students matters a lot because the cumulative effect of the student body can be an important determinant of quality in regard how they influence the delivery of teaching and quality. The student body must play a role in quality assurance and must always ask hard questions about quality and examinations integrity especially of the Doctoral Comprehensive examinations. They must have the academic freedom to play an active role in their learning. Find out how many faculty hold PhDs from accredited universities and their publications record? Are they published in peer referred journals or not? You must learn to manage your supervisor. Find out about his/her teaching and supervision philosophy and beliefs about the Doctoral process.
Use of technology is a critical issue today. Do your classes have IT support and has your university encouraged the teachers to use IT in the delivery of their lectures? There must be evidence of the use of Power point, Videos and films, and simulations in the delivery of teaching. Lecturers who do not use modern IT support give you a raw deal.
Does the library have adequate resources? Library books must be less than 5 years old unless they are classical works. Referred journals in your area must be the current circulating volumes. You must have access to current authentic journals. There are of course free internet resources but these are not adequate for Doctoral Education purposes.
We must recognize that there are many imponderables facing the education sector in the efforts to graduate as many Doctoral holders as possible since Kenya has less than 50% of the required numbers. There are dwindling finances, the competition for students has increased and quality lecturers are rare commodities among other challenges. These are common challenges in the higher education sector in all countries in today’s globalized world. The challenges may sometimes lead to hurried and poor preparation of students because of the wish to graduate as many students as possible. Because of the increasing clamor for doctoral degrees there are questions about accreditation, quality of the doctoral degrees, and the nature of the theses that student’s write and hence which universities have the best doctoral programs. The Doctoral students in any university must be in the forefront in demanding quality preparation unless of course they care only about a PhD certificate or are under so much intimidation by supervisors that they lack the voice. Students must demand active involvement in the Doctoral process. They must have a voice.