ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit Launched

ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit: driving equity in international university research partnerships

Published on 24 April 2023

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) has today announced the launch of its debut Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit, to support the creation and advancement of fairer north-south and south-south research relationships in the higher education research landscape.

With universities increasingly conducting research in collaboration with international partners, the unique needs and challenges of higher education research were at the forefront during the toolkit’s creation. The end result is a carefully curated selection of practical resources, that universities in all corners of the world can utilise to establish or enhance equity in their research relationships.

The toolkit builds on the growing body of guidelines and principles that call for increased equity in partnerships but have to date provided little advice on how to translate these principles into action. The ACU’s toolkit is designed to address just this, by providing guidance on the effective use of practical tools to help to establish equity within research partnerships.

Who is the toolkit for?

The ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit is aimed at all researchers working with partners, with a special focus on international (north-south) collaborations. However, many of the tools are also relevant for other types of partnership in which there are potential inequities between partners (e.g. multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, public-private or south-south).

What’s in the toolkit?

The focus of the toolkit is on stimulating private critical thinking and dialogue about what equity means and might ‘look like’ in a research alliance. The resources will assist research professionals in the planning, implementing, disseminating, and sustaining of equitable research partnerships, with content divided into the following seven sections:

  • Introduction: Background to the toolkit
  • Section 1: Building understanding and awareness
  • Section 2: Stakeholder identification and analysis
  • Section 3: Envisioning, achieving and assessing desired partnership impact
  • Section 4: Research study - design and implementation
  • Section 5: Monitoring, evaluation and learning
  • Section 6: Checklists

Many of the tools can be customised by the user and have been designed to create outputs that can be used to support claims of equity, for example in funding applications and/or progress reports.

Prior to the toolkit’s launch, substantial research was conducted with a range of ACU members from across the Commonwealth, as well as equitable research partnership stakeholders and experts, to best inform its development.

Commenting on the news, Beate Knight, Head of Programmes at the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), said:

‘We are delighted to be launching the ACU’s debut Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit, following extensive consultation and discussion with ACU members.

Supporting equitable partnerships between our 500+ strong global network of members is at the heart of our mission and fundamental to the ACU’s strategy. We believe that it is essential for universities to be at the forefront of action and research combating entrenched inequalities.

International research partnerships have become a growing reality and necessity in higher education, with increased collaboration between universities from the global north and south, and between those from high-income and low-and middle-income countries. We look forward to sharing our Toolkit with universities, helping to foster more equitable partnerships across the Commonwealth and build a more equal society for all.’

Dr Therina Theron, Senior Director: Research and Innovation at Stellenbosch University, South Africa and co-Chair of the ACU Supporting Research Community Steering Committee, added:

‘The global conversation on inequity and unfairness in research partnerships has gained significant traction in recent years, with increasing calls to action to implement changes in practice.

Equitable partnerships are an indispensable component of fair and just scientific research that benefits populations globally, as so eloquently stated by the recently issued Cape Town Statement on Fostering Research Integrity Through the Promotion of Fairness, Equity, and Diversity.

The ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit is an incredibly timely response to this global call to action – it will raise awareness around the damage done to scientific integrity through inequitable research partnerships, allow for reflection, and offer practical interventions to help ensure equity. It represents an extremely valuable tool to all stakeholders involved in the facilitation of research partnerships.’

Michelle Brear (PhD), Participatory Research and Writing Specialist and co-creator of the ACU Equitable Research Partnerships toolkit, added:

‘The ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit is a much-needed set of practical tools that researchers can use to think through what equity is. This unique resource will empower users to translate principles and guidelines into increases in equity in their global north-south and other research partnerships.’


View the ACU Equitable Research Partnerships Toolkit


All toolkit content is © Association of Commonwealth Universities 2023. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence