The graduation of 22 candidates in the first class of the collaborative Master of Research and Public Policy (MRPP) was a landmark achievement in 2016. The graduands at the universities of Dar es Salaam (November 8) and Mzumbe (December 2) joined PASGR’s flagship programme at its inception in 2014.
Higher Education Programme (HEP) Director Beatrice Muganda’s elation is captured in her reference to them as “ambassadors, who will go out and spread the message about the MRPP and build our reputation capital”.
In another highlight for the HEP, the University of Nairobi (UoN) officially joined the MRPP on November 1, following a September 22 stakeholders’ workshop, described by Dr Muganda as ‘highly successful’. Representatives from Kenya’s Treasury, the Commission for University Education, and the Commission for Revenue Allocation were among participants at the workshop, whose key message was that the MRPP was equipping mid-career professionals with the right skills to influence appropriate decisions that leverage effective policies in government and private sectors.
In joining the MRPP, the UoN became part of a growing community of teaching staff across the continent, who are closely interacting virtually and in person to enhance the network and its benefits to partner universities. Through the online interactions on Moodle—an e-learning platform for both
the teaching staff and students of the MRPP—students across the network benefit from capacities beyond their own universities.
The shared resource is also helping PASGR to enhance uniformity in programme delivery and to sustain a community of learners both at the lecturer and student levels who assume a unique identity that further embeds the PASGR brand.
The UoN’s entry as a first among many institutions on the waiting list affirms the MRPP’s growing popularity. It also underlines the zeal and enthusiasm with which African universities wish to offer programmes that catalyse rigour and excellence in design and delivery as well as shed the ivory tower mentality by speaking deliberately and practically to African developmental challenges and policy priorities.
PASGR Executive Director Tade Aina regards the community as intrinsic to the organisation. He says that although ‘community’ was not articulated in the strategic plan for higher education, it has been there from “the very construction and birthing of PASGR”. The idea of community is however present in PASGR’s vision statement: “a vibrant African social science community addressing the continent’s public policy issues” and strategic objectives.
In the MRPP, a community of practice has evolved around clusters of teaching staff with a similar disciplinary orientation, working together to bolster learning and generate a special cadre of professionals, who are well grounded in the different social sciences. Prof Aina says time has come to recognise and appreciate the community aspect of PASGR’s work as “a community of excellence for public policy.”
Another highlight was the MRPP Week—the third since PASGR’s inception. The MRPP week provides a forum for teaching staff and student representatives of partner universities to interact and share experiences.
In 2016, MRPP Week was held in Nairobi from August 8 to 10. The keynote address was presented by Prof Funmi Olonisakin of King’s College London and founding Director of the African Leadership Centre. Prof Olonisakin highlighted global practices and trends in security in relation to Africa, a topic that is covered under Contemporary Issues in Public Policy in the MRPP curriculum.
Prof Olonisakin’s rallying call was for the MRPP community to embrace best global models within the opportunities and with the resources available in the local contexts.
But what speaks loudest for this remarkable programme is the profile of its students. For the first time ever, ongoing students in an African university looked beyond their needs to breathe life and create a strong bond with prospective students. This was at the University of Jos where MRPP students hosted a fundraising dinner in a rare show of ownership and commitment to the programme.
The dinner attracted high-ranking government officials and business icons from Plateau State, Nigeria. This demonstrated resident communities’ endorsement and support of the MRPP. The proceeds of the fundraiser went towards supporting the MRPP programme at the university.
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This post is from the 2016 PASGR annual report. Download a PDF copy to read other stories about our work.