When COVID-19 hit, doctoral students around the world carved their own ways to make progress on their degrees, within the confines of the pandemic. At the same time, educational institutes recognised the need to tailor their operations, to fit the new normal. Now that we have eased back into life, we must take stock of individual and collective experiences to study the impact of the crisis and chart a way forward.
AKU's Institute for Educational Development (IED) hosted an international meet where academics from the UK, East Africa and Pakistan came together to highlight challenges of pursuing a doctorate during the pandemic.
The conference was attended by Dr Nadia Tahir who in the past has been associated with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan as Managing Director, of its Quality Assurance division. “I believe that it is imperative that our students who are pursuing or are planning to pursue doctoral studies should first ask themselves WHY do they want to get a PhD degree. It is absolutely vital for them to be clear on whether they are passionate about: finding the answers to questions that give them sleepless nights, and contributing to the body of indigenous knowledge" said Dr Tahir.
The 1-day conference involved many interactive sessions, giving doctoral students the opportunity to not only share their own reflections but also to engage with industry experts and present their research to them. The conference also addressed opportunities that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 such as the possibility of remote doctoral viva, reconnection to oneself as a result of the isolation brought about by the pandemic and the evolution of supervision as a dynamic process.
Dr Jennefer Golding, Associate Professor Mathematics Education at University College Londonwho joined the conference, said: “This excellent initiative (the conference) is worthy of wide replication. The opportunity to work collaboratively, as doctoral students and faculty, on recent doctoral issues both highlighted and catalysed by the pandemic, is so valuable, and serves to inform and enrich our shared (cross-cultural) understanding and knowledge."
Dr Farid Panjwani, Dean of IED also shared his thoughts on the first of its kind conference and said “I believe, that doctoral studies differ from masters studies in that doctoral students are expected to engage in first order questions regarding their discipline rather than merely collecting knowledge in their chosen field."