University of Liberia Finalizes Plans for Historic Ph.D. Program

 President of the University of Liberia Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr

…. As two more disciplines to follow

The University of Liberia has begun finalizing plans to introduce a Ph.D. degree for the first time in its rich 100-plus-year history.

Established in 1862, the University, one of Africa’s oldest public universities, has long been a bastion of higher education in Liberia. However, the absence of Ph.D. programs has limited its ability to offer advanced research and doctoral-level education.

The four-year Ph.D. program, according to the University administration, will commence with degrees in education administration, curriculum and instruction, and measurements and evaluation.

The ambitious initiative, which the administration of the nation's oldest university believes is needed to produce a generation of educators with the required expertise for education, comes as Liberia has long grappled with a significant shortage of qualified professors and researchers holding Ph.D. degrees.

Dr. Cecelia Cassell, the Dean of the William V.S. Tubman College of Education at the University, explained that the decision to launch Ph.D. programs comes after careful deliberation and planning by the university's leadership, reflecting its commitment to boost its research capabilities.

Cassell noted that the “University of Liberia's” journey towards offering a Ph.D. program is a giant leap forward in its mission to produce world-class scholars and experts to meet the 21st-century education sector needs of the country.

“Those wanting to enroll in the University’s program without a degree in Education will spend an extra one year before enrolling in the four-year program,” Cassell announced.

While the launch date of the Ph.D. programs is yet unknown, much will depend on approval by the National Commission for Higher Education, which will have to investigate whether or not the University has the infrastructure and qualified staff to offer terminal degrees.

If the Commission approves, the University of Liberia will then become the second university in the history of Liberia to offer a Ph.D. degree. The first approval was given to Cuttington University, the oldest private university in sub-Saharan Africa, to begin offering a Ph.D. in Theology and Ministry after a vigorous assessment exercise.

The decision by both universities has been met with widespread enthusiasm, and it is expected that the introduction of the programs will foster a culture of research and innovation, strengthen the academic community, and help retain top-tier talent within the country, thus bolstering national development efforts.

“The development of this Ph.D. program has been a labor of love, a collaborative endeavor driven by a passionate, dedicated team of educators and scholars,” Dr. Julius Nelson, President of the University of Liberia, said at a one-day validation workshop for the program.

Nelson noted that the universities had spent countless hours crafting a curriculum that is not only academically robust but also deeply attuned to the unique challenges and opportunities in the field of education.

In addition to the Ph.D. in Education program, Nelson said he has been informed by the Vice President for Graduate Studies, Dr. Jonathan Taylor, that the University cabinet has already received the Ph.D. program in Public Health and Biomedical Sciences.

He added that before the end of October, the University will inform the National Commission on Higher Education about its readiness to venture into offering terminal degrees.

Earlier, Taylor appreciated the Nigerian Government for providing five Professors to teach in this program, adding that they are scheduled to be deployed to the University in January 2024.

He said the Doctoral Program in Education is one of three terminal degree programs to be rolled out by the University of Liberia over the course of the next two academic years.

The other two, he disclosed, are Biomedical Sciences and Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology, as well as Public and International Affairs.

Taylor detailed that the goal is the production of experts and scientists who will help provide new and innovative answers to persistent questions of national development.

“We must summon the courage! I know there might be some who are pondering, why start a Ph.D. program at this time given the numerous constraints? While we appreciate this concern, the truth of the matter is, after 160 years, IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?” Dr. Taylor asked.

He stated that life is about a process, suggesting that you must begin and then continue to build.

Meanwhile, Taylor recommended that the Liberian Government consider making specific allocations in successive budgets to sustain research in doctoral programs.

He also said the University will look out for the support of development partners and friends.

The Minister of Education Prof. Sonii, the head of the National Commission on Higher Education Dr. Edward Lama Wokeryon, and foreign partners hailed the program and committed their respective support.

The validation workshop for the University's Ph.D. program took place on October 3 and brought together UL officials, the Minister of Education Prof. Dr. D. Ansu Sonii, foreign and local partners, officials from other universities, students, and faculty, among others.