Collaboration with Makerere University: Doctoral Education

An agreement was signed 2015, regarding a joint doctoral training programme towards degree of Doctor of Philosophy, PhD, under which more than 40 students affiliated to Makerere University College of Health Sciences have completed the joint doctoral training programme in the past years.

Joint doctoral training programme

The joint doctoral training programme has been developed based on double registration/admission, joint supervision and a joint examination process. Since 2002, supervisors at Makerere University (MAK) collaborate with supervisors at Karolinska Institutet to supervise doctoral students from Makerere University. The doctoral students 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.

From initially including five research areas in 2002 with 20 sub-projects and doctoral students, in 2014 the collaboration comprised seven research areas. As of 2020, there have been more than PhD thesis defended in this programme. 

Counterparts at MAK have been the College of Health Sciences and the School of Public Health, as well as relevant parts of the University Administration, i.e. School of Graduate Studies. 

The current phase of the Sida programme from 2015 to 2020

The current phase of the Sida financed programme from 2015 to 2020 has been extended until 31 May 2023.KI was granted funding for four project applications, all led by the Health Systems and Policy research group at KI. There are a few doctoral students from MAK involved in projects, all locally admitted as part of the plan Sida has to reduce the engagement in higher education in Uganda. In the current programme local supervisors are supervising local PhD-students with support of their Swedish partners.


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.

More than 40 PhD students from Makerere has graduated and more than 500 articles have been peer reviewed, the majority with a Ugandan as first author.  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.

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 at KI, 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 often lacking in project grants. This has ensured the sustainability of the partnership between the universities, 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.


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