Academics Without Borders

Academics Without Borders is a volunteer driven NGO, implementing vital, practical projects to strengthen higher education in developing countries so that they have the skilled professionals, such as nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers and computer scientists to build a brighter future. This helps to improve healthcare, education, inclusion and infrastructure.

'The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed' – at least this is what a large Japanese wireless provider believes (NTT DoCoMo, Japan).

Academics Without Borders (AWB) aims to better distribute the future through strengthening higher education in the developing world. Our mission is to assist academic institutions in developing countries in building capacity in higher education so that they can train their own experts and conduct research to assist in their development. We do this by designing projects that connect a volunteer expert academic from Canada and elsewhere in the developed world who then shares their expertise and knowledge with our partner institutions in the developing world. Through volunteers we contribute to the development of our partner institutions and ultimately the country in which they are located.

Academics without borders

Is knowledge important for development?

Sustainable development, or alternatively, the development of sustainability is critically dependent on knowledge. 'Fifty years ago the Republic of Korea and Ghana had the same income per capita whereas by the early 1990s, Korea's income per capita was six times that of Ghana – 50 per cent of that difference was due to Korea's greater success in acquiring and using knowledge' according to the World Bank. Today, GDP per capita is 20 times greater in Korea than in Ghana. Korea's rapid and sustained economic development is often attributed to, at least in part, the application of technology and science. The country is often used as a textbook example of how government policy and well educated researchers can change the national economic trajectory in very positive ways.

AWB focuses on individuals, but we rely on a multiplier effect for broader impact. AWB's volunteers work closely with colleagues at our partner universities, upgrading their knowledge and skills, so that they can share their knowledge with students and do the necessary research for development. This train-the-trainer approach ensures we reach the maximum number of people with limited resources, cascading help to local communities. With projects originating from our partner institutions, we can address local needs accurately. We work across all disciplines and establish long-term relationships with our partners.

AWB is implementing vital, practical projects to strengthen higher education in developing countries so they have the skilled professionals, such as nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers and computer scientists to build a brighter future. This helps to improve healthcare, education, inclusion and infrastructure.

Our objectives

  • To assist countries to build the critical mass of professionals; doctors, nurses, engineers, agriculturists, educators, administrators, managers, and entrepreneurs necessary to build a sustainable society for continued human development.
  • To ensure that the professionals needed by developing countries are educated in their home countries.
  • To work with partner institutions in developing countries to improve the quality of higher education so that professionals have the skills that they need to improve their communities.

Our volunteers

Highly trained volunteers are the foundation of our programme. Experts in their respective fields, volunteers travel to our partner universities in developing countries, improving teaching and research skills, introducing new courses, revising curriculum, upgrading administrative support and services, and even helping to establish new universities.

With placements varying from a week to a year, volunteers offer their time for free and our partner institutions contribute as best they can to the cost of their postings.

Where we work

AWB has projects throughout the developing world. Since 2009, we have completed over 90 projects with more than 100 volunteers in 17 countries, including some of the most economically and sometimes politically challenged in the world, such as Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, Nepal, Rwanda, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. AWB has established ongoing relationships with several institutions and is committed to working with them for as long as they request assistance.


Who are the beneficiaries of this rising tide of knowledge in a previously knowledge-poor area? People of local origin, who gain global connections through AWB and a strengthened understanding of how to generate, transmit, and store knowledge. New curricula, course content, and teaching and learning materials can be kept up-to-date through local initiatives as well as through electronic connections, both nationally and internationally with knowledge-rich institutions in the developed world.

Local undergraduate and graduate students benefit from modern, relevant and high quality courses and ancillary services delivered by local people who participate in the AWB programme. These students will ultimately graduate and contribute to regional development in areas such as health and education, food production, resource management, and environmental protection. The noted educator Kurt Hahn CBE, creator of Outward Bound and the United World Colleges among other things, is credited with saying 'as individuals we cannot change the world but we can create students who want to' and in many instances, will.

Faculty and support staff are connected to colleagues at knowledge and well resource western institutions, providing access to information and materials that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Our partners often build solid linkages to the outside world and the rising tide of knowledge.

As importantly, Canadian and other developed country university faculty and staff have benefited from the opportunity to work in a different culture and a rich environment that would not otherwise be easily available. For those who have never worked in the developing world it is often a transformational experience that also enhances their ability to strengthen their teaching in increasingly diverse classrooms at home and conduct globally relevant research. These individuals, along with their developing country colleagues, maintain a bi-directional flow of knowledge that benefits the world.

To find out more about Academics Without Borders and how you can get involved, visit the website:

ACU Internationalisation CommunityDr Angerilli was Associate Vice President, International, at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and led the internationalisation process at the university in support of the objective to become one of Canada's most international universities.

He sits on several boards, including the Board of Directors for Academics Without Borders.

Previously, he has been the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Student Services and International at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Associate Vice President, Students and International, at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada.

He has more than 30 years of experience in higher education and scientific research, as well as the design and management of international development projects involving education, environment and gender. He has authored more than 100 scientific papers and technical publications.

Dr Angerilli has been a team leader or consultant on more than 20 international missions with the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, Canadian International Development Agency, and the UK's Department for International Development while working in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Bolivia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Egypt and Zambia. Dr Angerilli was born in Canada, received a BSc and PhD in Biological Science from SFU and lived in Indonesia for ten years working for SFU while developing faculties of science at five Indonesian state universities.

Do you want to join the ACU Internationalisation Community? View more information here or email

Last modified on 27/10/2017
Tags: sustainable development, ACU Internationalisation Community, Canada, Community engagement, Internationalisation