How do PhD students become socialised into the professional world of academic work? This article pays attention to a ‘networked’ support pathway towards a PhD. The network constitutes an international research collaboration through a programme called Productive Learning Cultures (PLC) (2002-2011) between Norway and seven countries, developing or in transition, in sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of this article is to describe how researchers within PLC have over the years developed a support structure for PhD students. PLC has had intended and unintended outcomes. While the education of PhD students was an intended outcome, unintended outcomes include the establishment of a peer-reviewed journal, and the development of a networked doctoral school. Special attention will also be paid to the programme design structures that assist female PhD students from partner universities and promote sustainability once PLC donor funding terminates.