Collaboration with Uganda: Doctoral Education

An implementation Agreement was signed on 11 February 2015, regarding a Joint Doctoral Training towards degree of Doctor of Philosophy PhD, under which a substantial number of students affiliated to Makerere University College of Health Sciences have completed a double PhD degree at KI and MU in the past years.

Double PhD Degree

Joanne, Arman, Simon and Enock - Students at KI and MakerereA double PhD degree programme has been developed based on double registration/admission, joint supervision and a joint examination process. Since 2002, supervisors at Makerere University (MU) collaborate with supervisors at Karolinska Institutet to supervise Makerere doctoral students. The PhD candidates are under the regulations of both universities, and have a Master’s degree as a minimum requirement, for example a basic degree in medicine, biochemistry, or social sciences.

The students work in a “sandwich programme” mode, spending most of their time at MU with their local supervisor, doing field- or laboratory work in Uganda, interspersed with periods at KI taking specialised PhD courses not available in Uganda, learning laboratory methods, or doing focused analysis/writing.

From initially including five research areas in 2002 with 20 sub-projects and PhD students, in 2014 the collaboration comprises seven research areas and 40 PhD students. As of 2015, there have been 32 PhD thesis defended in this programme.

The seven research areas are

  • Biochemistry/Malaria
  • Clinical Pharmacology/Malaria and Antiretroviral Drugs
  • Cancer/Human Papilloma Virus
  • Health Systems Research
  • Mental Health/Depression and Psychosis
  • Microbiology/Tuberculosis
  • Reproductive Health

At KI the collaboration has extended to include supervisors and research groups beyond those normally involved in university collaborations with low-income countries, and also beyond those initially supported.

Counterparts at MU are the Faculty of Medicine and the Institute of Public Health, as well as relevant parts of the University Administration, e.g. School of Graduate Studies. The targeted Makerere supervisors are university staff members with a doctoral degree.


Strong research capacity has been built, both in Uganda and in Sweden. The collaborative research environment addresses health issues and health system priorities in Uganda, in several cases resulting in policy and practice reforms. The collaboration has provided the research groups with many comparative advantages and promoted the development of “consortium-like” thematic area research projects.

Thirteen years of financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has resulted in 44 graduated PhD students from Uganda and more than 500 peer reviewed articles, the majority with a Ugandan as first author. All Ugandan PhD graduates have remained in Uganda and thirteen have embarked on postdoc training. It is expected that this increased pool of trained researchers and locally directed research projects will have effects on the development of civil society in Uganda.

The collaboration has been described in PLOSMEDICINE 2015 “Enabling Dynamic Partnerships through Joint Degrees between Low and High-Income Countries for Capacity Development in Global Health Research:

KI successfully was granted funding in the next phase of the Sida program from 2015 to 2020 , resulting in four approved project applications all led by the Health Systems and Policy research group at KI. 

Demographic Surveillance Project

A Demographic Surveillance Site (DSS) in the Inganga and Mayube districts has been established as a “population research laboratory” with longitudinal follow-up of a population of 70 000 in 65 villages. There is continuous registration of the population and its health status. In the collaboration the DSS is hosting some of the PhD students’ field work, and has, through additional funding, expanded to involve researchers and projects beyond those initially included.


Initial seed-funding for the collaboration was provided by SAREC, a subsidiary of the Swedish development agency, Sida. The Swedish funding programme, Linnaeus-Palme, has also been used for the bilateral exchange of students and teachers, which at the most has included six study programmes, and an annual bilateral exchange of some 25 persons in each direction. Several KI PhD students have been introduced in the collaboration on separate funding. Support for the courses has come from the universities, but also from the BioMalPar EU-Network of Excellence and MR4-ATCC (USA). The demographic site has beyond the initial Sida/SAREC supported collaboration been assured funding from WHO/TDR, EU, EDCTP, Rockefeller Foundation etc.

Lessons Learned

The support from Sida has been formalised in three consecutive agreement periods from 2001 to date, and a fourth period is pending. In addition to Sida’s support, competitive grant funding has been received for research in areas such as malaria, newborn health and diabetes. However, Sida’s long term commitment has been key to ensuring capacity development, something that is oft en lacking in project grants. Th is has ensured the sustainability of the partnership between Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University, which is important when seeking further funding from alternative sources in the future. Other items that will provide sustainability to the partnership is the development of additional PhD courses and a coordinated course curriculum as well as a plan for providing graduating students with opportunities for post doc positions and careers.The research projects in the university setting need to address the Ugandan health sector priorities in order to translate research findings into policy and practice. Sufficient infrastructure, such as laboratory space, bio-banking, and internet resources must be available to ensure the success of the research projects.


International coordinator

Monika Berge

Phone: 08-524 865 98
Organizational unit: Faculty Office and International Relations

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