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Projects and Initiatives

In order to better take stock of current work being done in the realm of doctoral education, ‘Projects and Initiatives’ presents information about projects being carried out by organizations related to postgraduate training and management. Projects listed here share a common focus, all or in part, on African higher education.

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ACU blue text Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) iau member

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The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is the world's first and oldest international university network, established in 1913.
A UK-registered charity, the ACU has over 500 member institutions in developed and developing countries across the Commonwealth. Drawing on the collective experience and expertise of our membership, the ACU seeks to address issues in international higher education through a range of projects, networks, and events.
The ACU administers scholarships, provides academic research and leadership on issues in the sector, and promotes inter-university cooperation and the sharing of good practice – helping universities serve their communities, now and into the future.
In addition to the activities listed below, the ACU website hosts resources including a publications database featuring reports, papers, analysis, and conference presentations. These are available to staff at ACU member institutions only, and individuals must register for the ACU members area on the website first.


Tasks: Funding, information, networks, North-South relations, South-South relations, training

Target: Vice-chancellors, management, early career academics

Where: Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia,


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The Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa (CIRCLE) programme is an initiative to develop the skills and research output of early career African researchers in the field of climate change and its local impacts on development. The programme is funding 100 one-year, intra-African, supervised research fellowships, including 60 postdoctoral fellowships. In addition to being matched with a research supervisor at their host institution, each fellow is also paired with a mentor from their home university and an international expert in their field of research. The programme also works with home institutions to strengthen institutional mechanisms for supporting the career development of emerging researchers.

Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), CIRCLE is being implemented by the ACU in partnership with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), with support from Vitae and the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, UK.

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The Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) project works collaboratively with African universities to develop and refine professional development for academic staff early in their careers. Through the project, nine modules of a blended learning course in soft skills to support early career academic staff have been developed by African-based authors and piloted, each drawing on expert guidance from academics drawn from across Africa. Resources are made available under a Creative Commons licence so that universities can adapt and embed the training into their own in-house provision. The programme is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

RD Alliance |

Research Data Alliance (RDA)

The ACU is a delivery partner within the European element of the Research Data Alliance, a global movement advancing the open sharing of data across technologies, disciplines, and countries.

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ACU Early Career Academic Grants

Early Career Academic Grants are open to early career academics employed by ACU member universities to enable them to participate in a conference held in a Commonwealth country other than their own.

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The Nairobi Process

The Nairobi Process – a collaboration between the ACU and the British Academy – aims to strengthen research in the humanities and social sciences in African countries.

Between 2007 and 2009, a consultation took place on the problems which faced the African humanities and social sciences community, what could be done to strengthen research in these fields, and what the role of partnerships between African scholars and their colleagues in the UK or elsewhere might be. Two reports (The Nairobi Report and Foundations for the Future) were produced from this initial consultation. In 2015, a further review was conducted, concentrating on where international collaboration and support should focus. The next generation report (soon to be published) emphasises the value and the importance of investing in the development of early career researchers.

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ACU Gender Programme

The ACU Gender Programme supports the recruitment and retention of women in higher education leadership and management, and promotes gender equity as an integral institutional goal.

The programme – established in 1985 – aims to improve the management of higher education institutions in the Commonwealth by:

• Increasing both the quantity and quality of trained women leaders and managers in higher education institutions in the Commonwealth
• Introducing a range of gender equity training strategies and materials that are replicable, or may be adapted for use, in all Commonwealth countries
• Making these training materials easily and widely accessible
• Providing gender equity training opportunities and support for the development of trainers and consultants at national and regional levels
• Building a support network of women professionals who are already, or who have the potential to be, leaders in higher education

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ACU Measures

ACU Measures is an annual online benchmarking exercise for university management. It is a unique opportunity for ACU member institutions to benchmark their performance in key areas of university management in a confidential and non-competitive way.

Rather than seeking to rank institutions, ACU Measures helps universities to compare and contrast their practices and policies with their peers, supporting senior university management in decision-making and strategic planning.

ACU Measures enables university management to:

• Benchmark their institution’s performance over time and demonstrate the impact of managerial changes
• Learn about performance in a given area
• Define their own comparison groups and produce individualised reports, tables, and charts
• Use the results to make a case for resources, staff, or training
• Share experiences and good practice with international colleagues
• Identify which issues are specific to their institution, as opposed to national or regional

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CAAST-Net Plus


CAAST-Net Plus is a four-year initiative, coordinated by the ACU and funded by the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, to support the EU’s policy of international cooperation in scientific and technological research and innovation with Africa. The project consortium of 26 national institutions from Africa and Europe focuses on EU-Africa cooperation in three global societal challenges: health for all, food and nutrition security, and climate

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