By Conan Businge
MAKERERE University is benefiting from a $1.2 million (about sh3.1bn) grant to University of Cambridge, meant to boost its research from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Alborada Trust of United Kingdom.
Other contributors to the grant include the Isaac Newton Trust (Trinity College, Cambridge), the A.G. Levanters Foundation, and three other partner Universities; under the Cambridge Africa Partnership for Research Excellence (CAPREx).
The CAPREx initiative enables researchers at Makerere University to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom and the University of Ghana, Legon; for a period of three years.
CAPREx aims at building on the University of Cambridge’s existing independent collaborations with both Universities in East and West Africa. It enhances post-doctoral academic research excellence in the subject areas chosen by the African partners, on top of developing joint research projects.
There are 40 academic research fellowships available for researchers from Makerere and Ghana to apply for over the three years.
Another key aspect of CAPREx is to strengthen the capacity for research management and administration at the African partner Universities.
The Research Operations Office at the University of Cambridge is providing training to 12 African staff (over the three years) at the University of Cambridge, and also organising training workshops in each African University.
CAPREx enhances Makerere University’s 10-year strategic plan for 2008/9-2018/19, in which the University is repositioning itself to become research-driven and the leading institution for academic excellence and innovation in Africa.
To help fulfill this strategy, Makerere University chose to use CAPREx as a means of strengthening research in the social sciences and humanities, while the University of Ghana chose to focus on engineering and biological sciences.
The Deputy Director of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere University, Professor George Nasinyama said, “CAPREx aims at equipping African partner University staff with the skills, resources, networks and vision to become internationally competitive and successful researchers.”
Competitively-selected CAPREx academic fellows from Uganda and Ghana will collaborate on research projects, with other academic staff from a CAPREx partner University. They will also and will have the opportunity to spend up to six months at the chosen University.”
He added that, “These South-South and North-South research collaborations should further enhance the research skills and networks of the Makerere and Ghanaian researchers.”
For the first intake in 2013-2014, seven post-doctoral (early and mid-career) researchers from Makerere University were awarded CAPREx fellowships. They are Prof. Abbasi Kiyimba and Ernest Okello Ogwang, and Doctors Umar Kakumba, Andrew Ellias State, Euzobia Muisha Baine, Betty Nanyonga and William Tayeebwa.
Eight researchers from the University of Ghana were also successful in their applications for CAPREx fellowships.
Reflecting on his fellowship, Dr. William Tayeebwa from the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere, currently visiting Cambridge for three and a half months, said, “It is a great honour to receive a CAPREx fellowship to go and think big thoughts in Cambridge, and immortalize them in writing.”
“It is almost surreal to walk through alleys that greats like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, among many others, walked in, decades ago,” Dr. Tayeebwa added. He is based in the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) in Cambridge, collaborating with Dr. Florence Brisset-Foucault to explore the potential of conciliatory media in the African Great Lakes region.
When asked about her role in CAPREx, Ms. Jenny Mackay said: “I feel very privileged to be coordinating CAPREx, which builds on and complements existing Carnegie initiatives at both Makerere University and the University of Ghana.”
She added that CAPREx will further develop research and research management capacity at these two African Universities, and promote the recruitment and retention of their brightest staff.