Continuous Learning: Building and Tapping into Alumni Networks in Low- and Middle-Income Country Higher Education Institutions

The Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain – Africa (CARISCA)

ASU senior technical advisor working directly with a CARISCA PhD student at the 2022 Paper Development Workshop, held at KNUST

In June 2020, USAID launched the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain – Africa (CARISCA) through its Building Research and Innovation for Development, Generating Evidence, and Training (BRIDGE-Train) program. CARISCA is a partnership between Arizona State University and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana. The Centre’s goal is to generate cutting-edge supply chain management research and curriculum to advance positive development outcomes in Ghana and across Africa.

Partnerships and Sustainability

A strong alumni network can bridge gaps between businesses, governments and civil society organizations. Such a partnership can help to bring together diverse actors to solve complex real-world problems. At the same time, it helps prepare the next generation of sound critical thinkers.

Institutional capacity building and sustainable partnerships can be challenging to forge and build when trust is low. CARISCA wants to build relationships that can improve Africa’s supply chains and foster a sustainable future.

The alumni survey is one of CARISCA’s efforts to create an inclusive environment that strengthens long-term trust and collaboration between universities and other development actors. KNUST also wants to use this information to be more accountable for students’ satisfaction and successes, by systematically following up and measuring their success after graduation.

Background on the alumni survey

A group of KNUST alumni and CARISCA staff in a group discussion
During CARISCA’s initial program evaluation, KNUST faculty and staff met with students to hear about their experiences at KNUST and in their careers. The goal was to improve KNUST’s supply chain curriculum. This led to a formalized alumni survey in 2021, which targeted Supply Chain and Information Systems graduates. CARISCA continued the alumni survey in 2022 to include graduates from all departments in the KNUST School of Business. The goals of the alumni survey are threefold:

      to assess the mid- to long-term outcomes of Business School graduates in the Ghanaian workforce;

      to measure their job satisfaction; and

      to identify opportunities for improving students’ experience at KNUST.

Alumni feedback on their experiences at KNUST School of Business:

Students provided much feedback about their experiences at KNUST. Several key themes emerged:

      Students want to be more engaged in hands-on learning opportunities (such as through internships, applied projects, field trips and networking opportunities) during their studies.

      Students want to receive training in essential skills such as data analytics, writing and communication, and industry/area-specific computing. They also want to gain international exposure.

      Students wished they could have participated in seminars on leadership, life after school and entrepreneurship as a way of bridging their academic experiences with industry expectations

CARISCA taking action with the results

Based on the findings of the report, KNUST will make the following changes to create more interconnected, advanced and innovative learning opportunities for students. The insights from the survey led to the following actions:

      CARISCA will continue administering the alumni survey annually.

      KNUST’s alumni office adopted aspects of the survey for its annual tracer study of graduating students.

      CARISCA submitted a request to replace the current thesis requirement for master’s students with an applied interdisciplinary research project matched with the respective industry organizations.

   The KNUST School of Business will invite stakeholders (industry practitioners, entrepreneurs, alumni and civil society organizations) to multiple engagement sessions as part of course content development.

    CARISCA will develop business cases for students to provide insights into the real-world challenges and trends of development in local industries.

    CARISCA has supported KNUST School of Business to create a career services office to help students find good jobs upon graduation.

Methods and Survey Findings

The absence of a well-organized school-level alumni database made it challenging to track and reach out to the alumni. This precluded the possibility of using an online survey and created the grounds for a low response rate. However, with the help of trained field workers, the KNUST School of Business was able to administer questionnaires to 1,058 alumni who were initially contacted by phone or email. A total of 309 usable responses (29.21% effective response rate) were received by the end of the survey.

Alumni participants were predominantly men (77%) who had completed undergraduate degree programs from KNUST.

Respondents graduated from one of the four departments in the Business School: Accounting and Finance (A&F)—33%, Supply Chain and Information Systems (SC&IS)—33%, Marketing and Corporate Strategy (M&CS)—19%, Human Resource and Organizational Development (HROD)—16%.

The job outcomes show that 56% are full-time employees—58% for males and 47% for females—working for at least 31 hours per week

Compared by departments, 65% of the alumni from HROD, 63% from  A&F, 49% from SC&IS and 47% from M&CS departments had full-time employment.

Exactly half (50%) of the alumni work in the private sector, whereas 25% work in a government agency.

Twenty-four per cent of the employed alumni had engaged in an internship program with their employer while studying at KNUST. Among the employed alumni, 54% indicated that their jobs are closely related to their field of study, and 44% work in leadership positions. Overall, more than half of the participants indicated they were satisfied with their respective jobs. While the majority of alumni are in employment, about 12% are self-employed.

CARISCA PhD students at a CARISCA event in 2021

CARISCA is happy to work with alumni and businesses to provide executive education and training, consulting services and to conduct research.. We invite alumni and businesses to contact CARISCA center manager Mr. Collins Dankwa at to discuss areas where CARISCA can be of help. 




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