Peter Samuels is a senior lecturer at Birmingham City University, who focuses his work at the university’s Centre for Academic Success. The centre helps students with vital study skills needed to excel in an academic environment.
“In Rwanda a lot of what I was teaching the students had never been shared with them before”
Through workshops and one-on-one sessions, Samuels tutors on academic writing, along with mathematic and statistical skills.
It was these skills that Samuels’ tutoring of Rwandan PhD students centred on. Samuels made one trip in 2016, followed by two more in 2017 – the latest of which took place in December.
26 of Samuels’ students were based at Kigali’s African Centre of Excellence for Data Science. In 2016, the World Bank awarded 24 such centres across eastern and southern Africa. The University of Rwanda boasts four of them.
ACE-DS is part of the College of Business and Economics in the nation’s capital, and is supported by its partner Carnegie Mellon University. It’s goal is to produce upwards of 40 qualified African PhDs over the next five years.
Samuels said his work was spreading skills which are taken as norms in European or western education systems, but are only in their infancy in more nascent systems – like Rwanda.
“In more established education systems, this is perhaps something that is taken for granted, but in Rwanda a lot of what I was teaching the students had never been shared with them before and it was humbling to see a methodology used back in the UK making an immediate impression on the way they took ownership of their ideas and studies going forward,” he said.
And these skills, crucially, can be taken further than higher education, according to Samuels.
“As well as helping them prepare for postgraduate study, we also spent time exploring how one goes about writing for publication and how to maintain a good relationship with their supervisor, which are all important milestones in the development of an outward, globally-conscious academic.”