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How the ACU supports equitable partnerships

Theme: International collaboration

Supporting equitable partnerships between our global network of members is at the heart of our mission and is fundamental to our organisational strategy.

In a world where there are entrenched inequalities across so many aspects of life for so many, the ACU believes it is essential for universities to be at the forefront of action and research that seeks to challenge and overcome these issues to build a more equal society for all.

Supporting equitable partnerships between our global network of members is at the heart of this mission and is fundamental to our organisational strategy, The Road to 2030.

The ACU is supporting the Research Fairness Initiative's 'Year of Equitable Research Partnerships', during which we are calling for the principles of equitable partnerships to become a top priority for all stakeholders in the research-to-action pathway.

Equitable Partnerships

A global network for skills and knowledge exchange

To move the world forward, we must acknowledge and share the wealth of expertise that exists right across the globe – not just in the global North – and the extensive and diverse ways of knowing and thinking.

All universities have something to learn from each other – from indigenous ecological knowledge to cutting-edge tech. The ACU promotes knowledge sharing and knowledge democracy through university networks and partnerships including:

These networks and communities provide platforms for staff and students from universities around the Commonwealth, united by their interest and skills in specific areas, to share knowledge and ideas, contribute to policy dialogues, and build partnerships that will further these fields of work.

Good practice in equitable partnerships

Universities can strengthen the capacity of each other through long-term and equitable partnerships that specifically share knowledge and create locally-based solutions. The ACU’s capacity strengthening programmes support universities in building the skills and knowledge needed to ensure thriving teaching, learning, and research environments – creating the foundation for collaboration that is both fair and sustainable.

Through the Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL), the ACU works with 24 universities across four countries in east Africa to scale up blended learning and co-create locally-relevant online teaching modules, supported by the online learning expertise of global partners. Currently, over 10,000 students are benefitting from PEBL modules to build their skills.

The Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme, delivered as a partnership between the ACU, the African Academy of Sciences and Vitae, aims to strengthen research capacity for climate and environment work in sub-Saharan Africa. CIRCLE provides fellowships for individual researchers while also developing institutional capacity to support and manage climate research activities. 

For tools, guidance and resources from global partners focused on ensuring equity in international research partnerships, visit the UKCDR & ESSENCE equitable partnerships resource hub.

Broadening minds and forging connections

Studying in another country enables the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and cultures. This enhanced cross cultural understanding and respect underpins the basis for equitable partnerships. Providing students and the next generation of researchers access to international educational opportunities, such as the scholarships run by the ACU, creates lasting personal, professional and diplomatic bonds between individuals and nations.

One example is Andrew Harvey, a Canadian who received a Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarship to study at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where he began a life’s work to document the indigenous languages of the Tanzanian Rift Valley. His work with the Gorwáa community led to the creation of the first-ever dictionary of the language. Andrew’s scholarship subverted the traditional direction of international study, away from the ‘global North’ as the traditional destination.

The Commonwealth Futures series brings together cohorts of young people with a focus on creating global citizens and giving them a voice in shaping their future.

The Commonwealth Climate Research Cohort of 24 rising research stars will work towards solutions for climate-vulnerable regions in the run up to COP26. The ACU and the British Council are working in partnership to support the cohort to develop skills in research leadership, international collaboration, and translating research into action.

A call to action

In this joint communique, the ACU, The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) set out a vision for strengthening UK-African research partnerships, by building individual and institutional capacity, creating a supportive environment for researchers to thrive and grow, coordinating and aligning funding programmes and maximising research impact by enhancing networks and partnerships beyond academia.

Hear from the experts

Kirsty Kaiser, Implementation Manager at the Research Fairness Initiative, which is based in South Africa, and Professor Imran Rahman, Dean of the School of Business at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, joined us on 'The Internationalist' podcast to discuss whether international collaboration has a fairer future.

Listen below and find more podcast episodes here.

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Theme: International collaboration