Doctoral Students’ Learning Experiences in Ghana: Exploring a New Curriculum Using Bourdieu’s Concepts

Inusah Salifu, Joseph Seyram Agbenyega
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 777-794

To utilize Pierre Bourdieu’s (1984, 1986) concepts of capitals, habitus, and field to explore and critically analyze doctoral students’ learning experiences with a new doctoral curriculum introduced by a Ghanaian university.

Global competition and labor market reforms have ignited the need for higher education institutions to reimagine their doctoral programs, develop and align them with labor market demands and national priorities.

The research was conducted as a qualitative inquiry based on which the purposive sampling technique was used with 18 doctoral students from a Ghanaian university. Participants took part in individual interviews and data were analyzed using thematic coding procedures developed based on Bourdieu’s (1984; 1986) theorization of capital, habitus, and field

The study may benefit universities in monitoring the quality of doctoral students’ learning experiences.

The research found that, although the participants were broadly satisfied with some aspects of their programs, the additional cost associated with its duration, the lack of quality and timely feedback from supervisors, and difficulty accessing conference funding were key challenges to achieving the ultimate goals of the new doctoral curriculum.

The paper draws attention to human dispositions, values, and beliefs (habitus) which operate with different forms of capital in fields of doctoral training.

Researchers may focus on tools that help to transform supervisor habitus and the kinds of support that work for individual students.

The strongest message gleaned from this study is that to improve doctoral students’ learning experiences, it is necessary first to develop a student-supervisor relationship built on mutual respect, clear timelines for achieving supervision targets, and commitment to achieving the targets. The research further challenges the higher education system in Ghana and in deed, the world at large, to look beyond the objectified capital (certificates) and to develop relevant skills that students require to be professionally ready for the labor market.

One of the study’s limitations is that the sample was selected from one university in Ghana. Future research may compare doctoral curriculums and students’ learning experiences across several Ghanaian universities. Again, this research used the perspectives of only students. A future study may draw on multiple perspectives to provide depth and breadth of knowledge on the doctoral program.

Bourdieu’s concepts, doctoral studies, doctoral curriculum, Ghanaian university, doctoral students’ learning experiences
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