5 Dec 2014

Former PhD doctoral candidate takes up senior lecturer post

"The SECO-WTI project is unparalleled in the support that it gives to candidates doing research at the WTI."

Malebakeng Forere, who completed her doctorate last year within the SECO-WTI academic cooperation programme and returned to her native South Africa, took up a post as senior lecturer in law at the start of November. In this interview she talks about plans to publish her thesis, and the importance of the SECO project in supporting research candidates.

Congratulations! Please tell us about your new academic position.
I am now a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. The University of Witwatersrand ranks among the top 500 world universities and this means that I am in a very competitive environment. But with the skills acquired from WTI, I am positive I am up to the task, especially in terms of research productivity.

It’s now a year since you submitted your doctoral thesis and left the WTI. What has been happening in the past year?
Post submission of my thesis, I went back to my job at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, where I worked as a lecturer in the School of Law and where I taught international trade law and Foundations of South African Law. Nevertheless, the past year post submission of my thesis has been very slow and I suppose this resulted from fatigue after completing a PhD in less than two years and also having a baby during the same period as writing my thesis!

But I am now back at intensive research and I have completed a paper for publication in one of the South African accredited journals. Most importantly, I have prepared a book proposal for publication of my thesis and it has been accepted by Kluwer Wolters International. I am now occupied with publication of this book. Over and above that, I have joined a team of researchers at the WTI to present papers at the (Law and Society Association) conference in Seattle in May 2015.

Your career path could inspire other young academics from developing countries. How instrumental has the SECO-WTI project been in this?
The SECO-WTI project is unparalleled in the support that it gives to candidates doing research at the WTI. Also, the WTI is the best institution within which one can undertake research; it has the best library on international law subjects and it uses very well renowned professors from all over the world to undertake teaching and present seminars.

In addition, the regular brown bag seminars, workshops and conferences that take place at the WTI equip PhD candidates with knowledge on recent developments on all subjects of international economic law. Situated in Switzerland where WTO is located, WTI couldn't be a better place for pursuing studies in international trade, and often candidates from the WTI take field trips to the WTO and have an opportunity of attending seminars or workshops organised by the WTO.

Thanks to the collegial relationships forged by researchers at the WTI, you do not feel isolated when writing your PhD although PhD research is in its nature a very intense and lonely undertaking. A PhD candidate at the WTI is not stuck with their supervisor but has a lot of professors to consult with on their research subject.

Finally, holding a certificate from WTI is very prestigious in that while a lot of PhDs these days are just quantity without any contribution to knowledge, PhDs from WTI are highly innovative and carry with them philosophical analysis of the subject expected from a PhD. This results from the requirement that PhDs must be published in a book to get the PhD certificate. Thus, WTI PhDs have been published with reputable publishers such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Hart Publishing, Kluwer Wolters International, Edward Elgar and many others.

Do you have any words of advice for those starting out on the academic path?
To those intending to start the MILE programme, be prepared to work hard and sleep less than normal. But, at the end of the programme, you will be highly competitive in the field of international economic law. 

For prospective PhD candidates, I can guarantee you that you have selected the best institution to pursue your research on international economic law. But be warned, because there are no short-cuts at the WTI; you have to work very hard to complete your PhD on time because taking too long can be very stressful and you can end up resenting your topic. Also, make use of WTI internal and external resources (professors) and build relationships. You are going to need them after your studies at the WTI either as examiners or research reservoirs.