Structured Training for African Researchers

Funded by Robert Bosch Stiftung, this project works with African universities to develop and refine professional development for academic staff early in their careers.

Structured, institutional support to early career academics is often lacking within universities. This lack of support can substantially constrain their professional development during a particularly critical period in their career. With a pressing need to help bolster the next generation of academic staff in Africa, providing structured professional development opportunities to staff early in their careers can help to strengthen the long-term vitality of research and teaching activities.

STARS seminar, 1 October 2014 (University in Cape Town, South Africa)

University of Cape Town participants taking part in Module 1 online seminar, October 2014

About the project

Working collaboratively with African universities, Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) is developing effective support mechanisms and professional development training for early career academics.

The project’s aims are: 

• To institutionalise and embed early career support, aiding senior university management to achieve this;
• To provide institutions with a mechanism through which they can extend and improve the support they are able to offer;
• To build the skills and confidence of early career academics.

STARS does this through: 

1. Assisting participating universities to strengthen and develop their institution’s support framework for early career researchers; 
2. Collaboratively developing an openly licensed, online professional skills course, which is backed-up by individual mentoring; 
3. Helping institutions to adapt the training courses and embed them within their own training programmes. 

At the end of the project the ACU intends to offer robust, high quality series of online training to universities across the developing world. The training content will be published under a Creative Commons license so that universities can adapt and embed the material within their own professional development offerings.

Project activities and timing

Year 1 - The first strand of activity involved working with university leaders to develop an institutional approach to supporting early career researchers. This primarily involved the Deputy Vice-Chancellor or Vice-Rector responsible for the research portfolio, along with a working group of senior academics and administrators that he or she convened. 

Years 2 and 3 - The second strand of activity involves piloting a course of online skills training that provides a starting point for – or an enhancement of – the institution’s programme of support for its early career researchers. The first cohort involved early career researchers from two academic units (departments or research centres) at 12 universities. The second cohort then extended participation within these universities.

Each participating university formed a working group of senior university leaders and managers to coordinate the programme locally, including Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Deans and Directors, and a senior academic lead within each nominated unit. 

The first stage of the project commenced after selection of 12 universities and nine course module authors, following open calls. The authors collaborated with the universities on development of individual modules which form part of the entire online course.

The second stage began with the delivery of the first online seminar for Module 1 on 1 October 2014. The remaining eight modules ran consecutively throughout the academic year 2014/15. 

Recruitment for the third and final cohort, which will run in 2017, is currently underway.

More informationSTARS course module descriptions | STARS course module author biographies | Pilot participant information | Pilot academic lead information

Robert Bosch Stiftung

Contact us

Sofia Apollonov
STARS Project Officer

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