Tega Ogbuigwe shares the importance of information on your path to graduate school

Scholar: Tega Ogbuigwe

Undergraduate: B.Sc International Business Administration, Cum Laude (First Class), United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya

Masters: M.Sc. International Business Management, Distinction, University of Surrey, United Kingdom

Doctorate (Ongoing): Ph.D. International Business, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

My decision to get a Doctorate was inevitable. As an academic, you can’t proceed beyond a certain level without a Doctorate. After spending three years as a lecturer at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (Port Harcourt), I had gotten to that stage. Now, my decision to obtain a doctorate from a foreign university was well planned and informed. Being privileged and blessed to have both my first and second degrees from foreign universities, I had experienced and interacted with a lot of lecturers and gained insight on the benefits and networks they were exposed to. This was something I really desired for myself and so, my search for a foreign university started.

When I started my search initially, funding wasn’t my biggest challenge because as a lecturer, I was entitled to a funding scheme called Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) that offered Nigerian Lecturers in Federal and State universities full funding (tuition, living expenses and travel costs) to pursue a doctorate degree. At that time, the criteria were simple – get an offer from a foreign university and your funding was guaranteed. So having that in mind, I focused on other aspects of choosing a foreign university which are extremely important and eventually became valuable with my funding.

First, FIELD OF STUDY; Having both my first and second degrees in international business combined with three years’ experience teaching the course, I couldn’t imagine myself getting a PhD in any other field. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of schools offering a PhD in international Business. That brings me to my second important aspect.

LOCATION; when I started my search, I focused on the default locations – United Kingdom, Canada and USA. Although there were two schools offering a PhD in international business in the UK, I wasn’t too keen on going back to the UK after my masters. The US and Canada had quite a few schools but when you have a family, choosing where you intend to spend the next 4 years is not simply determined by school rankings and conventional expectations. I had to consider other aspects that had to do with raising and caring for a family in addition to my future plans. This brings me to my third important aspect.

CONTEXT. Define your situation, your context, your resources and the kind of environment you are most likely to succeed during and after grad school. What are your long-term plans? Does your current location interest support these plans? Context eventually became a very important aspect of my funding story. I spoke to a few friends and colleagues about my grad school intentions and struggles with finding a suitable place that offered a PhD in international business. And someone told me about New Zealand. I had never thought about New Zealand, it wasn’t even on my radar, but I was flexible enough to consider it. That’s my next important aspect.

FLEXIBILITY. Don’t be too caught up in an ideology and let it constrain you. Read for yourself, gather information and be open to possibilities that are outside the box. After reading about New Zealand, the way of life, the pattern of education for both me and my kids, I was convinced it was the place for me.

Long story short, I got an offer from my present school but unfortunately, there wasn’t any funding attached. And just at the same time, TETFUND changed the criteria for funding lecturers and I was no longer eligible (double Whammy. Lol). And this is where location is a very important aspect. In New Zealand, PhD students are considered residents and are charged tuition based on residency status; Which is really really really small about – compared to anywhere else in the world (about USD5,000) with some work experience and savings, I wasn’t totally empty.

But my final and important aspect will be NEGOTIATION and NETWORKING. Contact important faculty members in the school, ask questions and you will be surprised the opportunities that are available and not stated on the school’s website. With lecturing experience and consistency in degrees, I was able to get paid tutorial hours and work on a project that was aligned with my research interest. These were good sources of funds.

Overall, I’ll say getting into grad school and securing funding requires a few strategies but there is no one size fits all. Sometimes you can have all the qualifications and experience and still get rejected or get no funding. What I know guarantees success, is stepping out of your comfort zone and be willing to put yourself out there. Know your value, know your light and let it shine through networking and your application documents. Seek help and counsel from experienced people and gather as much information as you can as early as you can.