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UCL in Africa: strengthening collaborations

ucypcbu24 May 2017

Drummers welcome delegates at the first conference of the African Universities Research AllianceIn line with the Global Engagement Strategy (GES), UCL is intensifying its engagement in Africa. In April 2017, UCL colleagues conducted visits to Ghana and South Africa to strengthen existing partnerships and to facilitate the development of further avenues for collaboration with current and potential partners.

Africa Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) launch

The Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, travelled to Ghana to attend the inaugural African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) conference held at the University of Ghana.

ARUA was inaugurated in Dakar in March 2015, bringing together sixteen of the continent’s top institutions with a common vision to leverage their resources for greater impact, similar to the Russell Group in the UK. Under the theme ‘Research in Africa Rising’, the conference was attended by over 100 delegates and marked the official launch of ARUA.

The event also served as a platform to announce ARUA’s strategic objectives which will focus on increasing Africa’s contribution to global cutting edge research output, the number of PhD graduates working on the continent and increasing the number of African universities in the top 200 universities globally over a ten year period.

UCL was one of two non-African institutions invited to speak at the event, and Professor Uchegbu joined a panel to present on: “New Trends and Developments in Global Scientific Research and the Role of Universities.” She gave an overview of UCL’s multidisciplinary approach, particularly in light of the Global Challenges Research Fund as well as the importance of translational research.

In the margins of presentations Professor Uchegbu met with key colleagues at ARUA institutions to discuss strengths within their institutions and identify possible areas for future collaboration with UCL.

The synergies between the key challenges that ARUA seeks to address and the GES strategic drivers allow for potential bilateral collaboration between UCL and ARUA. Current priority areas for ARUA will focus on collaborative research, training and support for PhDs, capacity building for research management and research advocacy.

In terms of next steps, ARUA will pursue a number of large multi-institutional projects in both the natural sciences and social sciences/humanities under the thirteen themes they have identified to take forward collaborative research.

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) visit

Led by Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International), a UCL delegation carried out a two-day visit of UKZN. The visit served as an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the two institutions, and to evaluate potential channels for wider-collaboration and increased impact.

The delegation outlined UCL’s support for collaborating with UKZN beyond existing health-related collaborations, such as the African Health Research Institute (AHRI), and highlighted how AHRI’s aims and vision align to the GES. The inclusion of the Vice-Dean (External Relations and International) Population Health Sciences and the Director of UCL Institute of Advanced Studies enabled colleagues to explore academic collaborations within disciplines that were not previously discussed, such as Arts and Humanities and Laws.

During the visit both institutions agreed to hold a data sharing day, which would be hosted in London at UCL. This would enable UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and to build on the initial discussions in South Africa. Held on 18 May, the event enabled UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and facilitate discussions on potential collaborations and possible fundable research topics, accessible through funding such as GCRF.