The first doctoral cohort of 25 students enrolled at STADIO in January 2021 for either the Doctor of Management or the Doctor of Policing. Prof. Elmarie Sadler, a seasoned scholar and academic manager, was appointed by STADIO to lead the implementation of these two programmes from January 2021.
STADIO decided to introduce two professional doctorates from 2021 with a focus on the world of work in business and policing against the backdrop of the perceived role of the doctorate in the knowledge economy globally.
However, a major concern within the South African context is the low throughput rates of doctoral candidates attributed to, amongst others, an inability of students to navigate themselves through this the challenging journey without constant support. Therefore, STADIO embarked on a strategy to select the best candidates and provide them with optimal support.
The recruitment and selection of the best quality doctoral candidates was considered to be pivotal to the success of the two programmes. Two intake dates were initially set, namely in November and April. However, as sufficient number of high-quality applications were received in November and December 2020, and a decision was made to have only one intake in 2021.
More than 70 application were received from prospective students. An initial screening considered several success indicators, such as the marks obtained for a relevant master’s degree, suitability of the topic, the rigorousness of the initial research proposal, the relevance of work experience and the availability of a suitably qualified supervisor. No less than 25 suitably qualified students were admitted.
In addition to the three internal supervisors, 21 supervisors with vast supervisory experience and relevant doctoral degrees were recruited, contracted and allocated to all the students.
The doctoral programme commenced with compulsory five and two day face -to -face research proposal workshops in South Africa (25-29 January 2021) and Namibia (8-9 March 2021) respectively. Topics presented by experienced researchers and experts in the relevant fields included:
Academic reading and writing
The spirit of science
Contextualising the research problem within the literature
Formulating an appropriate title and research problem
Research ethics considerations
Selected research methodologies
The workshops were interactive, allowing numerous opportunities in smaller groups for the students to present their envisaged research topics, problems and methods. The supervisors were also invited to attend the workshops. In Namibia, all three supervisors attended the workshop. The workshop in South Africa was attended by 10 supervisors. The attendance by the supervisors contributed immensely to the success of the workshops, as the students could personally meet and connect with their supervisors. The supervisors also assisted with facilitating group discussions.
STADIO introduced a doctoral student support model to provide ongoing, dedicated support to the doctoral students. Weekly two-hour online sessions have been offered by STADIO staff members, as well as experts in the relevant fields, since the 16 February 2021.
Most students attend the sessions every Tuesday evening and have provided excellent feedback on the value and contribution to their doctoral journey. Many of the supervisors also attend the online sessions. Weekly online two-hour research methodology lectures are also offered to the Masters in Policing and Masters in Management students on a Thursday evening. The doctoral students have requested to be included in these sessions and most of them also attend these lectures.
The need for a Bridging Programme in Thesis Success arose when students who applied for admission to the doctoral degrees were not admitted because they were deemed not to be ready or adequately prepared to start a doctoral thesis.
The programme, presented from the 1 May 2021, addresses this learning gap and effectively widens access for students who would otherwise not be able to access the apex qualification. The main aim of the programme is to inculcate knowledge, skills and attitudes that will materially enhance the chances of students to successfully complete their doctoral study.
No less than 15 students registered for the first intake. The six-month programme will be offered twice a year and consists of an advanced blended offering, with 60 notional hours. Through this programme, STADIO provides optimal support for future doctoral students to be successful.