Doing a PhD in a Low-Income Country: Motivations and Prospects

  •  Gabriele Griffin    


The purpose of this article is to analyse the gendered motivations of students to undertake doctoral research in a low-income country (LIC), Mozambique. Most research on PhD student motivation is done in high-income countries where the drivers for doing a PhD are quite different from those of people living in LICs. Drawing on original empirical research in the form of semi-structured interviews with PhD students from Mozambique, and utilizing the concepts of 'altruistic' and 'self-concerned' motivations, this article argues that context is a powerful determinant of motivation. The findings of the research highlight the need for scholarships as a major driver for undertaking a PhD in an LIC. Further, PhD students' motivations, unlike those in high-income countries where the self is at the heart of decisions to do a PhD, include altruistic motives such as the desire to serve one's country, institution, community, and people as well as having a voice in the public sphere. These altruistic motivations are more important than the more self-referential factors such as 'intrinsic interest in the subject' and 'self-fulfillment' that dominate the literature from high-income countries. This implies that donor countries, the common suppliers of scholarships for PhD students in LICs, need to ensure that scholarships are adequate to enabling PhD students from LICs to complete their degrees both in terms of duration of scholarship and in terms of amount. Without this completion rates are likely to be slow and low. The article calls for more research on this issue in LICs.

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