Oliver Serfling is Professor of Economic Policy and Development Economics at Rhine-Waal University in Kleve / Germany. He is academic director of the master degree programme “Sustainable Development Management” and acts as referee for academic journals in quantitative economics and projects of international development cooperation. He received his PhD in Economics with specialization in Statistics and Econometrics at the University of Basel, Switzerland. We met him at CBE where he was teaching students from the AQEPD programme.
How did you first get involved with AQEPD?
I came up with the idea of designing a kind of a bridge program after discussion with several experts from ministries, the central bank, IPAR and universities during the GIZ-project kick-off meetings here in Kigali, in December 2015. I felt the strong need, to equip young talents with the necessary research skills in order to prepare them for an international academic career. After we did some more research on the local necessities in February 2016, we found the idea of designing a short course-program that fills the gap btw. a national Rwandan master degree and an application to an international Ph.D. position still very appealing. We designed it in spring and since October the program is running with its first intake.
What are the most exciting aspects of the program for you?
Actually, this is the program that I would have hoped for when I was a young Ph.D. student. It covers all of the necessary aspects of how research is being conducted in quantitative economics. It quickly refreshes the methods that should have been already learned during the bachelor and master studies and applies these to real world problems. It opens insight to current academic debate and gives every participant the chance to develop a proposal for his or her own research project that should be elaborated during a possible Ph.D. research phase.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope that our mission contributes to the capacity building in the Rwandan higher education sector, and that the need for an AQEPD program disappears in the long-run. You might ask why? Because, I first hope that the applied focus of the program enters the curricula of the existing Master-Programs in Economics at the local universities. And second, I do hope that we will be able to contribute to the foundation of a graduate school in the region, where parts of the AQEPD-courses might enter the curriculum of the first year of a structured Ph.D.-program.
What message do you want to send to your students?
A wise old german proverb says “der Weg ist das Ziel – the path is the goal”. When it comes to research, there is no straight line from an initial research questions to a robust and defensible answer. The road is bumpy ahead, there are a lot of curves, dead-ends, and diversions. Important is that you remain in the driving seat, continue to focus on your research problem, do not shy away to enhance your methods, and observe the latest findings from other research in the field.
What is your resumee about your time here?
I really enjoyed my first week teaching in Rwanda. I have seen talented and motivated students. I wish that all of my students would share that enthusiasm.