PERKA guidelines launched at high-level convening on early-career researcher development in the post-PhD phase

Posted on December 08, 2022

The Peer-Learning for Emerging Researchers’ Knowledge and Advancement (PERKA) project was a joint participatory research project focusing on support provided to early-career researchers in the post-PhD phase in Africa. Funded jointly by the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, the project was implemented in collaboration with the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (CAS) at the University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa.

The purpose of PERKA was to identify, analyse, document, and share the key lessons learned from CCNY’s investment in post-PhD support programmes in Africa. PERKA adopted a collaborative, participatory peer-learning approach to document and investigate partnership models for post-PhD support in Africa.

As a close-out event for the PERKA project, a high-level convening on early-career researcher development in the post-PhD phase was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 6 to 7 December 2022. The convening aimed to facilitate conversations about the development of early-career researchers across Africa in the post-PhD phase. The high-point of the convening was the launch of a key output from the PERKA project – a set of guidelines for designing impactful post-PhD support programmes in Africa.

Image: Cover page of the PERKA guidelines


The two-day high-level convening programme included a keynote presentation by Prof. Ernest Aryeetey – Secretary-General of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA). Prof. Aryeetey shared his insights on the status of early-career researcher development in Africa and the lessons learnt from the ARUA experience. He highlighted not only the challenges, but also the opportunities for strengthening programmes to support these researchers.

The six convening sessions also included facilitated conversations focusing on topics such as challenges and opportunities associated with the early-career research phase; the design, planning, and implementation of high-impact programmes; funding these programmes; and understanding the impact of post-PhD programmes via effective monitoring and evaluation.

Alumni who participated in the various PERKA programmes presented comparative case studies detailing their experiences as early-career researchers who benefitted from post-PhD support. These case studies were followed by facilitated question-and-answer sessions.

The PERKA guidelines were officially launched during the final session of the high-level convening on 7 December. The launch was led by key figures in the PERKA project – Prof. Frans Swanepoel, PERKA Principal Investigator based at the University of Pretoria, and Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director Strategic Partnerships and Acting Group Executive for Strategy, Planning, and Partnerships at the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.


Image: Launch of the PERKA guidelines (Photo credit: Elizma Hayman Photography)


The guidelines are based on the lessons learned from 10 African post-PhD support programmes and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centres of Excellence that ran concurrently over the past decade. They intend to provide guidance for and share the experiences of African programmes in implementing such initiatives, describe partnership models for funding, and provide action points and recommendations for enhancing post-PhD support across the continent.

The guidelines aim to serve multiple audiences, including science funders, development partners, higher education institutions, and networks who wish to implement impactful early-career researcher support programmes focused on the post-PhD phase, as well as the project teams responsible for implementing these programmes.

- Author Esley van der Berg

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