Global Development Institute Blog

Since graduating from GDI with a PhD in Development Policy and Management in 2013, Dr Bawole has visited The University of Manchester every year to deliver guest seminars and collaborate with colleagues and former supervisors. We caught up with him on his latest visit to chat about how his degree from The University of Manchester led to two promotions when he returned to Ghana.

Why did you choose The University of Manchester?

A number of reasons: when I finished my MPhil studies in Ghana, I applied to The University of Manchester (GDI was then IDPM) and wanted one of the professors to supervise me, but I think my topic was not exciting for him, so I stayed at the University of Ghana for a few more years and reapplied. This time, I applied not just to The University of Manchester but also to other universities. I was admitted into three universities, but I saw that The University of Manchester was a great university, a merger of two big universities, so for me that was exciting. And then too I realised that the faculty members, the lecturers at The University of Manchester and GDI, had a lot of developing country experience. As somebody coming from a developing country, I thought I needed people who understood the context that I came from and would be able to guide me in the way that I needed. So the faculty and the very strong research background and focus on developing countries were for me a deciding factor. And then when I entered The University of Manchester, I saw that it was even much more than what I thought.

Did having a scholarship affect your studies?

I started off as a self-funded student in the first term from September to December, so I spent most of the time thinking about where I’d get the next tranche of fees. But luckily I went to Ghana in December 2010 and the government was able to offer me a scholarship through the Ghana Education Trust Fund. So I came back for my second semester with that scholarship and it freed me from thinking about and wanting to do work, so I actually spent my time writing articles when I wasn’t working on my PhD. And that helped me too, because by the time I had finished my PhD, I had published about ten articles, and that gave me the opportunity to go back to my former job as a Lecturer where I was immediately promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer.

What did you do after graduating?

When I finished my PhD in September 2013, the experience I had gained working with experienced faculty and researchers at The University of Manchester helped me. I remember when I entered the University, my first meeting with my supervisor Dr Farhad Hossain, he told me, “Most students who come to The University of Manchester will finish their PhD. But I want you to get something more than a PhD.” And that really struck me. So I began to think about how I was going to differentiate myself, and that was why – when I had my funding and I didn’t need to work – I spent all my time wanting to make a difference and do research. My Fridays and Saturdays were almost always spent writing articles and I ended up with at least ten published articles by the time that I was done with my PhD.

The University of Ghana, where I had been a Lecturer, required that you had at least ten articles to be promoted to Senior Lecturer. So the experience that I got here at GDI, the capacity that I developed here, the collaboration with faculty here, and the articles that I published here, were all things that immediately gave me the opportunity to meet the requirements that my university was looking for to advance my career. So when I put in the application, I was promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer. My experience in Manchester was such a catalytic experience. It didn’t just give me a PhD, it also gave me the capacity to publish – and be promoted.

The most exciting part of this is that eight months after I was promoted to Senior Lecturer, the Head of my Department was appointed to another university. We had to appoint a new Head of Department and at the time, I was the only Senior Lecturer. So you can understand what the publications and experience at The University of Manchester did for me: otherwise I would have queued up to be promoted, but as I was already a Senior Lecturer and the highest in rank, I was promoted to become the Head. I’ve since served the Department two years, and this was extended another two years until 2018.

I should say I’m excited because becoming a Head of Department allows you to sit on all of the committees and boards in the University. And as a career lecturer or professor, I’m hoping that that these experiences are going to be something I can use in the future to help me become the kind of professor I want to be.

So Manchester has been good. And I talk about it everywhere I go!

What are you doing now?

I’ve been coming to Manchester every year since I finished to give lectures to postgraduate students. This year I am giving seven lectures on different aspects of development management and international development. For example, I’ve spoken to students about local development actors, about spirituality in human resource management, about organisational development, about constitutions and the law and how that affects human resource management in a development context. In addition to the guest teaching, I also collaborate with my former supervisors and other colleagues. I’m happy to say that we’ve just published a book on development management: Development Management: Theory and Practice. We’re also thinking about another book project, this time we want to look at governance practices in local NGOs in Africa. Perhaps I will keep coming every year until that project is also realised.

What is your best memory from your time at Manchester?

The rain! You can never predict the rain in Manchester, so I know some friends call it Rainchester.

But in terms of The University of Manchester, I think a number of things: first the faculty are extremely friendly. There was no distinction between a faculty member and a PhD student. They treated us as colleagues, they were very friendly. They gave us all the support we needed in terms of academics, but also they gave us a lot of social support.

I remember that my last born was three months old when I came to The University of Manchester, and Farhad (my supervisor) was almost always concerned about the fact that I had left my kids back home. So he would often ask me, how am I doing? And every time I went back to Ghana, he would often give me a little gift to give to the little girl. That kind of bond and friendship that we had with the faculty was extremely cool. That’s one of the great memories I have from The University of Manchester.

The other one has to do with the kind of infrastructure that we enjoyed. Manchester invests a lot in resources – economic resources – so always you had resources that you needed to make your work go well. If you had problems with computers and you reported it, it was promptly responded to and fixed. When I have problems in Ghana, I make reference to it: this can’t happen in Manchester, in Manchester you have whatever you want to be able to work well.

What advice would you give to current students for life after Manchester?

I think that for many of us who come to Manchester, we come with different motivations but in the end, everyone wants to have a fulfilling career after Manchester. I say that Manchester is noted for uniqueness in a number of things. When I came, I wanted to be able to identify with a particular uniqueness of The University of Manchester, the capacity of research – to be able to do good research. By the time that I finished, I was able to show off myself that I had been training at The University of Manchester and it was not difficult for me to get promoted. So I think that what colleagues who are currently working at GDI for their PhD should do is try to gouge out a set of uniqueness that they want to be tagged with from Manchester. Once they have that, I implore them to show that off because The University of Manchester is a global brand. So show that off to people and you will find that there are a lot of employers who are willing and eager to employ you.

For those that are wanting a place to study, The University of Manchester serves as a melting pot of the global environment. You come to University of Manchester and you can meet all sorts of people. And apart from meeting all sorts of people, you will meet a top notch class of researchers who you can affiliate with and who will not out of their accomplishments look down upon you, but will be those people who will still want to associate with you and have a chat with you, stop by the coffee place with you and say a word or two to you and find out how you are doing and all of that.

Since leaving here, I have tried to make sure I don’t leave a gap: when I left and graduated, that very first year, I brought somebody who was a former student of mine at the University of Ghana to start his PhD here (he is now in his third year). The year after that I brought another former student of mine (now in his second year) and this year I brought my teaching assistant, he’s just started his PhD at The University of Manchester. So for the past three years, I’ve brought somebody every year to take my place. And if it were not something I was proud of, I would never let somebody else come here. I am proud to be who I am now and I think Manchester has played a key role in this.

After this visit to Manchester, I am going to Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Public Policy. I’ll be giving a couple of lectures to students, PhDs and to faculty, and to have some meetings. Then I’m continuing onto to Washington DC for a conference and meetings. I see myself now going everywhere in the world because Manchester didn’t limit me: it gave me that exposure that makes me able to compete with everyone else from everywhere else in the world. And to be able to say I’m at the top. So Manchester is the place to study!