• Various studies have found that well-educated people from developing countries are likely to emigrate, hurting their economies and depriving their countries of much-needed expertise in universities.

    Now Norwegian researchers may have found a solution to the developing world’s brain-drain conundrum: more than 90 per cent of postgraduate students involved in two Norway-funded programmes for the developing world remained in their country or region of origin after graduating.

    Early last year the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education, or SIU, sought to find out what had happened to masters graduates from two grant programmes funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norad.

    The main focus was Norad’s Programme for Master Studies, or NOMA. Students supported by the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education, or NUFU, were also interviewed.

    Nearly 2,000 students in 36 countries were approached and, says SIU, “the response rate of just above 40 per cent was higher than expected”. Qualitative interviews were also conducted with scholarship recipients in three countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Nepal.

    The aim of the Graduate Tracer Study was to determine the extent to which NOMA and NUFU had succeeded in building capacity in students’ home countries, and whether the graduates had been able to apply acquired skills in the national or regional workforce.

    But it also emerged that the two programmes managed to retain the graduates – even though they could have left their countries to search for opportunities abroad that are rarely found back home in developing economies. The study found that more than 90 per cent of the postgraduates remained in their country or region of origin.

    “This is a very important and positive result of the two programmes,” Torill Iversen Wanvik, a senior advisor at SIU, told University World News.

    Wanvik said one of the successful aspects of the design of the NOMA programme was probably its concentration on activities in the South. When established in 2006, the NOMA design represented a radical shift with the past in locating its activities in established masters programmes, coupled with scholarship support.

    “The inclusion of multilateral programmes and cooperation between universities within the region also opened up opportunities in the regional labour market,” Wanvik said

    Graduates remained in Africa, Asia and Latin America as a result of scholarships which were earmarked for newly established masters programmes. The study showed that many of the graduates were recruited by the same institutions that ran the masters programmes or by other higher education institutions in the country or region.

    Wanvik noted that although the main focus of the study was on masters graduates, the universities involved were conscious of the need to recruit PhD candidates to enable sustainability of the masters programmes.

    Students recruited under the NUFU scheme for PhD studies had to be members of staff, or prospective staff members of the home institution. Scholarships were available to students who had the potential to continue into PhD education and contribute to the strengthening of the institution’s capacity and competence for research and research-based education.

    “Brain drain is a problem in Africa – people go for greener pastures,” said Dr Wilson Charles Mahera, a mathematician at the University of Dar es Salaam and a NOMA coordinator in Tanzania. The NOMA courses were very relevant to Africa, where capacity building in universities was still sorely needed.
    World University News
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