|African Research Excellence: the Launch of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)|
|Monday, 23 March 2015 12:49|
At the African Higher Education Summit held in Dakar in March leading universities established an Alliance of African research intensive universities with the purpose of sharing resources, supporting each other and building excellence in research and research management. In addition the Alliance hopes to serve as a hub that supports research across the African continent.
In an article in SciDev.net by Karen MacGregor reported that the Alliance noted that although no African university has the capacity to make a difference in research or PhD production on its own, by collaborating the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) will be a strong force in driving excellence in research across the continent. By supporting training, collaborative research and capacity building to enhance research and its management the Alliance could contribute to the good work that has already been done. One intention of the collaboration is to provide better support for young researchers, providing incentives for them to stay on the continent. According to Prof Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand “the primary focus of AURA is to build indigenous research excellence with the intention of asserting Africa as a powerful global force”
ARUA shares the goals of existing research university consortiums such as the League of European Research Universities. However it not intended to be an elite group of top research universities but is rather conceptualised as a catalyst for building African research capacity more generally. Comprising of 15 universities from across Africa ARUA is African owned, Africa driven and intends in the long term to rely on African resources. Including a number of DRUSSA Universities the 15 members are Lagos, Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo in Nigeria, the University of Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the University of Rwanda, Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, and in South Africa the universities of the Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal and Rhodes.
High Level Support
ARUA has the support of the Chair of the African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who had previously emphasised the importance of strengthening African research and universities. Dlamini-Zuma said that it will be “a catalyst for igniting research across Africa and addressed the ‘key issue of the need to cooperate” ARUA’s success will also be influenced by the buy-in it gets in the African higher education sector and goverments, and the support given by local and international donors.
Research management is one of the three thrusts of work identified by ARUA, along with collaborative research and improving training and support for PhD students. A first step for ARUA is to audit current capacity within its member universities. The focus will not only be on infrastructure but also each university’s capacity in terms of research management and research support.
The high priority given to research management is a reflection of its critical importance for researchers working in the national, continental and global arenas. There is now acceptance that there has to be management capacity in universities to strategically put in place and implement policies, researcher training and information resources which support the research process, and maximize the impact of research findings.
In order to ensure that the momentum of the Alliance is not lost it will identify a number of big research programmes which are aligned with African priorities as outlined the African Unions “Agenda 2063”. The research will be multi-disciplinary, spanning the social sciences, humanities and sciences and will, according to Habib, “contribute towards finding the solutions to complex problems facing the development of our continent today and in the future”
Alison Bullen is the DRUSSA website Content Manager at OSD email@example.com