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UCU gets Shs8.4bn grant to start PhD in Communication and Media studies

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Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication has won a Shs 8.4 billion grant to start a PhD programme in Communication and Media Studies in 2022.

The PhD programme that will be the first of its kind in Uganda, and one of the very few in East Africa, is intended to bridge the training gap at that level in the region.

The Faculty won the grant through the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development ((NORHED). The programme aims to strengthen the capacity of higher education institutions in the Global South to produce higher-quality graduates, higher-quality research, and more inclusive education.

The grant will also be used to start a Masters’ degree programme in Media and Communication Studies at the University of Rwanda, also the first in the country.

The Faculty Dean, Prof. Monica Chibita, used staff WhatsApp account to announce the news. “Yes, friends, we got the NORHED II grant, Hallelujah,” she wrote.

She later told the New Vision newspaper that the Faculty was grateful to the Norwegian government for the generous grant. “This means a lot for us, for UCU and the East African Region. A quality PhD programme will ensure quality graduates and will contribute to a robust research culture. We expect that this will elevate the level of debate about the media and communication’s role in democracy and development. Ultimately, we are looking for impact and this grant does a lot to enable that,” Prof. Chibita said.

The UCU Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, congratulated the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication for winning the NOHRED II project and said it will build staff capacity and media and democracy in Uganda.

“This should inspire other Faculties to pick interest in grants and research to enable UCU join the league of research led universities,” Prof. Mushengyezi said.

Assoc. Prof. Terje Skjerdal the project’s coordinator from NLA University College in Norway described the news of the grant as fantastic. “I am so grateful,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook wall. “I am looking forward to working together with Monica Chibita, Margaret Jjuko and Ruth Teer-Tomaselli for the next six years.”

The Faculty is partnering with NLA University College in Norway, University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and University of Rwanda.

Through the study programmes, the grant also aims to promote gender and equity by providing interventions to ensure inclusivity. The interventions include the MA and PhD scholarships for women and persons with disability, maternity leave provisions and competitive post-doc opportunities available to men and women.

The project will further fund journalism and media research in the region and help equip partner Universities in East Africa with text books and media training equipment. Partner Universities have marked out three key areas for research under this grant including Media, Democracy and Development in Eastern Africa; Media, gender, identity and participation; and the changing roles of the media in crisis.

“The three themes are based on identified gaps in research in the East Africa region as well as the current research interests and expertise of staff of the partner institutions,” Prof. Chibita said, adding, “The areas will inform the organisation of teaching and research, and facilitate the formation of research teams and mentoring networks; bringing a level of predictability to enrollment and supervision.”

The official NORHED website, said 60 projects received funding under NORHED II.

“Norad received 199 applications to this call, of which 60 will be funded,” reads the statement published on the website on December 18, adding, “Total amount applied for is NOK 3.1 billion, while the total budget for this call is around NOK 1.1 billion.”

Jeanette da Silva the coordinator of the NORHED programme said that due to high competition and limited funding available, many relevant and high-quality projects were unfortunately rejected.  Running on the theme, Preparing Practitioners for a Resilient Media in Eastern Africa, the 6-year project will be a continuation of the 7-year collaboration UCU Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication; NLA University College; and the University of KwaZulu-Natal have had under NORHED I.

The University of Rwanda will join as the latest partner. The project will engage CABI/SciDev.Net (a UK based NGO) to support on training, dissemination and community engagement.

UCU used NOHRED I to establish and run an MA Programme in Journalism and Media Studies and another one in Strategic Communication (supported by NLA University College and the University of KwaZulu-Natal). It also sponsored five PhD students and six MA students, provided four “post-docs” and six student exchange visits, hosted four international conferences in Africa and Europe and procured books and equipment. The five PhD candidates completed their studies on time at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and four of the six MA students have graduated.

The ultimate goal of the grant is to produce a better qualified workforce in the Ugandan and Rwandan media who can contribute to democratization and development in their respective countries.

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