On the policy front, senior policy seminars provide a forum for the discussion of policy-oriented syntheses of AERC research and for obtaining feedback from policy makers on the AERC research agenda. There have been six such seminars to date. National economic policy workshops are also very useful tools for promoting policy dialogue. In some countries these have become annual national events and are largely self-financed. Involvement of some of the senior researchers in policy advisory roles has grown considerably as confirmed by a questionnaire administered to the network. Internationally, the network is increasingly used as a sounding board for major policy considerations by multilateral financial institutions and other donor agencies. AERC researchers have to date been invited as witnesses to four testimonies to the US Congress on matters pertaining to African development and the operations of the international financial institutions affecting it.
The quality of the Collaborative Master's Programme is widely recognized; its history of very positive reports from external examiners and high-grade achievements in the courses formed part of the rationale for establishing the Collaborative PhD Programme. The regional interaction among students and teachers at the Joint Facility for Electives sets a stage for future collaboration not only among the participating universities but also more importantly among future policy makers and policy making institutions. Furthermore, the training programmes contribute to the regional retention of scarce capacity of teaching staff as professional opportunities for excellence have been enlarged.
AERC has also embarked on building an electronic network among the universities participating in the collaborative PhD and MA programmes. This is aimed at facilitating information sharing and improved access to world resource centres. It should almost go without saying that the impact of the AERC network of researchers and institutions crucially depends on the continued strengthening of its professional stature, the members' enhanced credibility with policy makers, and their active professional involvement in their respective countries.
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