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The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) is an initiative of nine African universities, four African research institutes, and selected northern partners. CARTA aims to develop and deliver an innovative model for doctoral training in sub-Saharan Africa and to strengthen the capacity of participating institutions to conduct and lead internationally-competitive research.

Over the medium-term, CARTA aims to produce a critical mass of high-quality graduates trained to address the complex issues surrounding health and development in Africa, and to retain these researchers and scholars in the region by providing them with a vibrant intellectual environment, and viable and challenging research and training opportunities. Why CARTA? The formation of CARTA has been motivated by the great need facing graduate level training in Africa.

University education in most sub-Saharan African countries faces many challenges. Unprecedented growth in student enrolment and the expansion of training programs, especially at the undergraduate level, have occurred at a time when per capita funding for universities is being reduced. Many universities in the region presently operate with overburdened, underpaid, and disillusioned faculty who take on consultancies to maintain a basic living standard. The increasing exodus of human capital from the academic and research fields in Africa has, inter alia, led to the continent's decreasing share of global scientific output and contributes to the widening gap in science and technology and health status between Africa and other continents.

While the above problems affect university programs in Africa across the board, they have had a disproportionate impact on graduate studies, particularly, doctoral training. Most leading African scholars and faculty today are products of fellowship programs that facilitated their training at top Northern universities between the 1970s and the early 1990s. Such opportunities are not only rare today, but also only a minority of those trained overseas in the recent past return to academic and research positions in the region. Further, the cost of overseas programs has gone up and the relevance of some of the overseas training programs for Africa's development needs is now a source of concern.

Taken together, these imply that the next generation of African scholars and researchers will be trained here on the continent. Currently, students in graduate programs on the continent face a number of challenges including poor quality supervision; limited exposure to current methods and debates; weak academic and research environments; and lack of role models/ mentors, strong academic and research networks, opportunities to participate in international conferences, and funding.

These factors, coupled with weak Master's degree programs and PhD bythesis- only, undermine the technical competence and quality of graduates of African doctoral programs. Given the increasingly important role of African universities in training the next generation of African scholars and researchers at masters and doctoral levels, enhancing the quality of graduate training on the continent is critical to preventing further deterioration in the quality of university education in Africa in general, and of research capacity, in particular.