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FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe defied all odds when she graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) at the University of Zimbabwe on Friday.

News of her feat was received with surprise, even shock, by many who marvelled at how quickly she had worked on it and graduated.

President Robert Mugabe who reportedly has seven degrees, and a host of long serving lecturers at the UZ do not hold PhDs whose attainment is no mean achievement.

Some have questioned Grace's achievement considering that reports show that she completed her first degree in Chinese Language barely three years ago in 2011.

Grace was part of the 3,274 graduands who were capped by Mugabe, who is the Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).

She graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in the Faculty of Social Studies. Grace was capped along with Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who also graduated with a PhD under the Faculty of Commerce.

But Mujuru already had a Masters degree in Strategic Management attained with Chinhoyi University of Technology.

It was not clear when Grace registered for her PhD with UZ, but towards end of June this year, it was reported that she had registered for a doctorate with the institution and a well-known UZ sociology professor was her supervisor.

Grace got her first degree through distance learning with the People's University of China. It could not be established if she completed the requisite post-graduate degree course to enable her to register for a PhD.

The news crew yesterday asked academics and administrators from different universities the process required to complete a PhD and the requisite entry qualifications.

UZ lecturer Professor Greg Linnington said a doctorate involved writing a thesis and often would take several years for one to finish their research.

"A doctorate involves writing a thesis, after having a research question prepared, write a proposal and then write the thesis where one needs to research on, critique it then it can be marked, but that could take a few years. It however varies with individuals to complete. Some just do a thesis while others might do one with some course work, but usually it's a minimum of three years," Linnington said.

He said one needs to have an undergraduate or a Master's degree but said that also varied from university to university.

Another lecturer and university administrator who refused to be named said one would need a good Master's degree in order to enrol for a doctorate.

"One would need to make various presentations of each phase during the studies. One also needs to publish their work in a renowned academic journal. The process of research until writing the final thesis takes between three and seven years and for one to pass and be awarded a PhD, they have to make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge," he said.

He said at most universities, a PhD was an academic apprenticeship which proved that one is an academic expert in that area of study.

"At most universities that are worth their salt, the supervisor for any student must be a Professor with many years' experience and the final thesis the student writes must be passed by at least two external independent examiners," said the university administrator.

Another professor said for one to embark on a doctorate, they would need a supervisor and one needs to suggest a topic which would then be passed.

"Qualifications usually needed are a good first degree, a Masters' degree and then they write a proposal which will go through the university. After that, one has to do their research which is usually between them and their supervisor. And the minimum for one to attain a doctorate is three years. One will have to be an exceptionally brilliant student to finish it in less than three years," he said.

He also said the thesis is then passed by at least two examiners in which one of those should be an external examiner.

Meanwhile, In 2009 it was reported that Grace Mugabe opted out of her studies for a Bachelor of Arts (English) with a British university after she only managed to pass two subjects in almost a decade.

In 1998, Grace failed all three subjects she was tested for.

Explorations in Literature (I) – 9%,

Explorations in Literature (II)—18%

Renaissance Comedy: Shakespeare and Jonson—17%.

The following year the first lady repeated the three subjects but again failed

Explorations in Literature (I)—31%,

Renaissance Comedy:Shakespeare and Jonson—29%,

She, however, salvaged a pass in Explorations in Literature (II) with a 42% mark.

In the same year, she attempted an additional subject, Approaches to Text, but failed with a lowly 7% mark.

She was reportedly studying through correspondence but her lack of progress prompted university officials to deregister her from the programme. standard-thezimmail

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