New Program to Match Young African Researchers with Univ. of Cambridge Academics

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The University of Cambridge’s wide-ranging and long-term strategy of engagement with African higher education institutions moved into its next phase following the recent announcement of a $1.2 million grant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and a $1 million grant by The Alborada Trust.

The new grant is an important addition to Carnegie Corporation’s efforts to produce and retain African M.A. and Ph.D. candidates.

The 36-month Carnegie Corporation award, alongside a four-year grant from The Alborada Trust, will significantly enhance the funding already provided by the Isaac Newton Trust, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, and the University of Cambridge for the establishment of the Cambridge-Africa Partnerships for Research Excellence (CAPREx).

CAPREx aims to strengthen Africa’s capacity for sustainable excellence in research through close collaborative work with the region’s most talented individuals. Building on successful partnerships with the University of Ghana and Uganda’s Makerere University, CAPREx’s goal is to widen the scope of engagement to include the whole of the University of Cambridge and involve a greater number of higher education institutions in Africa.

The University of Cambridge has a long and rich tradition of research in Africa, although most of it had previously depended on discrete collaborations between individuals or specific academic departments. A more joined-up strategy has recently emerged for holistic engagement with African universities, based on existing initiatives such as THRiVE (Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence in East Africa) and MUII (Infection and Immunity Research Training Programme), both sponsored by The Wellcome Trust.

These capacity-building programs focus on PhD and postdoctoral researchers in health-related disciplines. Young African researchers are matched with leading Cambridge academics who provide mentorship and support. Fellows spend up to one year of their research program at their Cambridge mentor’s laboratory. Supervisors or mentors from Cambridge and Africa take part in exchange visits to provide maximum support and mentorship.

Other successful Cambridge initiatives include the Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Research Programme at the Centre of African Studies, supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Isaac Newton Trust and the A.G. Leventis Foundation.Focussing on research in the humanities and social sciences, this programme brings up to five African scholars to Cambridge each year for a six-month visiting fellowship, with the aim of enhancing the participants’ research profiles.

Such programs, which illustrate the depth and breadth of Cambridge’s current engagement and expertise, make the proposed Cambridge-Africa Partnership unique. The newly awarded funds will help in providing further support and training to African researchers (at doctoral, post-doctoral and early-mid career levels) in an even wider range of subject areas, and across more countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The ’Cambridge in Africa’ program is led by Professor David Dunne (Department of Pathology), with input from Professors James Wood and Duncan Maskell (Department of Veterinary Medicine) and Professor Megan Vaughan (Centre of African Studies), and support from Dr. Pauline Essah. It works in partnership with African universities and research institutes in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, among others.

Professor Dunne, who has collaborated with colleagues from African institutions for over three decades, said: “I am delighted that we have received generous funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York and from The Alborada Trust to support our Cambridge in Africa Programme. These funds will provide a step change in the level of support available for African academics to engage with Cambridge and build on our successful experience with a number of Wellcome Trust African Institution capacity-building programmes. The building of relationships has proved beneficial for both African and Cambridge research. The generous financial support will be used by Cambridge and its African partners to train the best and brightest African researchers, and to help them to develop their research careers.”

The University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, reacted with great enthusiasm to news of the Carnegie Corporation’s award: “I am delighted at the award of the grants for this major and imaginative program which brings together academics from Cambridge and Africa.  The University very much values these links and these awards will help us to build further and deeper institutional relationships in order to help the development of higher education.