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Nature of the Collaborative PhD Programme (CPP)

CPP Academic Activities

1.Intensive Course Work

The primary aim of the first year of the AERC Collaborative PhD Programme is to push the students further toward the contemporary intellectual frontiers of knowledge through a series of intensive courses taught by African scholars and leading international experts. These courses are in the three core fields (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Quantitative Methods). The second academic year features the intensive teaching of the elective courses at a Joint Facility for Electives (JFE) by African scholars and leading international experts.


Upon successfully completing core courses at the host-DAUs, all students gather at a common facility - the Joint Facility for Electives based in Nairobi, Kenya, for intensive teaching of elective courses by internationally competitively sourced team of experts for a period of 16 weeks (July to October). Each course is divided into two semesters of eight weeks each taught by two different lecturers per subject. Each semester is a complete course in itself with a final examination held at the end of the session. Students select two fields of specializations from among the following approved eleven elective courses:

List of Approved CPP Elective Courses   

  • Agricultural Economics
  • Industrial Economics 
  • Development Economics
  • International Economics 
  • Econometrics
  • Labour Economics 
  • Environmental Economics
  • Monetary Economics
  • Financial Economics
  • Public Sector Economics
  • Health Economics

The JFE provides a serene learning environment that is well equipped with a computer laboratory and a Library that is stocked with reference books and journal articles for all the elective courses. All computers are connected to the internet, which allows access to online academic and research databases as well as online journal facilities.

Joint regular CMAP/CPP weekly seminar series play a central role in the life and academic discourse of the JFE, whereby presentations are made by the visiting lecturers and also by CPP students. The seminars provide an avenue through which students are initiated and guided in the practical science and art of writing and presenting of academic papers through a "learning-by-doing" approach.

Students then return to their respective host degree-awarding universities at the end of the JFE to prepare for and take the comprehensive examinations-four examination papers per student in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and two electives.

The following issues should be noted about the comprehensive examinations:

  • The examination coverage extends from the most elementary (undergraduate) level to the frontiers of knowledge (PhD level).
  • The examinations are set by a team of experts in the relevant fields under the auspices of AERC and approved by the PhD Academic Advisory Board; these experts are familiar with the teaching of the relevant course(s) at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  • The students take their examinations in two core fields (Microeconomics and Macroeconomics) and in two elective fields at their respective host degree-awarding universities. There are no comprehensive examinations in Quantitative Methods. Examinations are conducted at least three months after the end of the CPP JFE.
  • The examinations are marked by the expert examiners and the results discussed and approved by the PhD Academic Advisory Board, before being forwarded to the students' in the respective degree-awarding universities.

2.PhD Thesis Proposal 

After the comprehensive examinations, students work with supervisors in their degree awarding universities to determine their areas of specialization, select dissertation topics and prepare their thesis proposals. A centralized thesis proposal workshop is held where students present and defend their proposals. Selected international and African experts, serving as discussants, resource persons and evaluators of the research proposals, assist in this process. Thesis supervisors also attend this workshop and participate actively in the proceedings, working jointly with the independent resource persons to evaluate each thesis proposal. In many respects the process is similar to that of the AERC biannual thematic research workshops, which involve peer review supported by resource persons. The process is currently planned such that both biannual research and proposals workshop are held jointly so as to gain some synergies between the two processes.

3.Field Work

Third-year students are involved with thesis research, fieldwork, and data gathering and analysis under the primary guidance of their thesis supervisors. This process ends with a post-fieldwork workshop, another centralized facility to enable students to present preliminary analyses of their research. The process, again, involves selected international experts and African scholars, who together with thesis supervisors act as resource persons, discussants and evaluators. It is also presented and defended at the workshop with researchers.

4.Thesis Preparation and Defence 

The fourth and final year of the Collaborative PhD Programme is devoted to final thesis write-up and defence at the degree awarding university, in accordance with established respective degree-awarding universities rules and procedures. 

5.Programme Duration

The Collaborative PhD Programme is a four-year post-MA that makes maximum use of international and African experts assembled periodically to interact with students in centralized locations through each of the last three academic years. These intensive interactions are designed to occur twice in the second year of the programme: over 16 weeks of intensive teaching and examination of selected specialized elective courses, and during the thesis proposal workshop at the end of the second year.

This is followed by a similar one-week post-fieldwork workshop at the end of the third year.  The workshops at every stage are designed to strengthen the process as well as indirectly contributing to the process. These structured and results-oriented interactions should be adequate for eliminating such deficiencies as lack of course work, poor thesis supervision and isolation from the rapidly unfolding developments in the economics discipline that have plagued local doctoral training in Africa. At the same time, this model enables students to benefit from exposure to international experts without losing the African experience.


This model does not explicitly include an obligatory one-year (or less) overseas attachment. But it permits such an arrangement on an optional but mostly competitive basis, as well as postdoctoral attachments that can be organized through existing AERC modalities. In order to further expose graduates of the programme to developments in the field, special efforts are made to link them, through internship programmes, to the various national policy institutes across Africa, as well as international organizations such as the World Bank Institute, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank Institute, among others. Provision is also made for students to present research findings at major international conferences and to learn from them about new theoretical and methodological developments and important ongoing policy concerns, to enrich and broaden further their research interests.



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