Growing knowledge

Status: Completed project

Duration: 2009-2011

Project lead: The Association of Commonwealth Universities, United Kingdom

Project partners: University of Nairobi, Kenya; University of Malawi (Chancellor College); University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; National University of Rwanda. 

Funder: Arcadia, United Kingdom

Summary: Good libraries and access to the latest literature are essential for research, wherever in the world it takes place. Researchers in sub-Saharan Africa commonly highlight poor journal access as a serious hindrance to their academic work. But thanks to partnerships between librarians, publishers and a number of access initiatives, academics and students in east and southern Africa – and across the wider continent – have an impressive range of high-quality peer-reviewed material available. This includes many of the most important journals from leading international publishers: the four partner universities had 79% of the top 20 journals across 15 subject areas in 2009.

But while availability and electronic access is improving dramatically in many universities, actual usage amongst staff and students does not appear to be keeping pace. This study, commissioned by Arcadia (a UK grant-making trust), explored a series of interrelated issues which helped to explain why availability had not yet translated into high levels of access and use in some cases: technology and connectivity, the discovery of academic resources, library leadership and staff development, and relationships within the university.

Outputs: The study offers a series of recommendations for librarians, ICT staff, university managers and external support and funding organisations, suggesting practical ways in which they can help to strengthen research and teaching by encouraging greater use of available online resources. Below are some of the resources that were produced as part of the study, including three reports, a guide, and a presentation.