A STORM is brewing at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) as senior lecturers, including deans and professors, plan to write a letter of protest to the university council, the institution’s highest decision-making body, over the controversial award of a doctoral degree to President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, it has emerged.
“Deans and senior lecturers want to engage the council demanding an explanation on how the university awarded Grace Mugabe a PhD,” a UZ professor who requested anonymity said yesterday.
“We have checked university, department and faculty records, from registration, the academic committee, research and attendant issues like supervision both internal and external and exam processes; there are so many gaps and question marks. It seems procedures were simply not followed and this is an indictment on her and the university itself.”
A senior lecturer said: “We want an enquiry into this issue because it’s not about Grace per se, but the UZ, its leadership and the education system in Zimbabwe. It seems this is an academic scandal of monumental proportions.”
Depending on the country and institution, a PhD takes different periods to complete. In the US, it usually takes three to six years depending on the field of study, work rate and supervisors.
Depending on whether it is the traditional DPhil, an integrated PhD, or a professional one, and if one is full-time or part-time, among other factors, in the UK it takes between three and six years. In Zimbabwe it is a minimum of three years.
“Doctorates in the US are not like DPhils here and generally in the British system,” another UZ professor said. “In the US, to get a PhD you must first do a programme of course work for two years, after which you take and must pass a qualifying exam before embarking on research and writing a dissertation where you are supervised by a dissertation committee of two or three scholars.
It’s different here at UZ where we follow the British system which requires a student to do extensive research on a single project, under the guidance and supervision of an academic who is an expert in the field. Writing the thesis or a dissertation, of usually 100 000 words, must be presented at the end of three years of academic period.
The decision whether or not a doctorate should be depends a lot on the quality and depth of the final work. There’s usually no taught element involved in the traditional PhD or DPhil, which differs with from the integrated PhD or professional PhD structure.”
The UZ has now become a laughing stock locally and abroad over the issue.
Ibbo Mandaza, a renowned local academic, said Grace’s controversial PhD award would damage UZ’s reputation, its academics and its alumni. “It’s less about the graduate herself and more about the university’s reputation which is under scrutiny and at stake,” Mandaza said. “The issue must be explained by the university in detail.”
Grace was deregistered by the University of London where she was studying for a Bachelor of Arts (English) degree after failing most of her examinations in 2004.