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Request for proposals: Equitable partnerships toolkit

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is seeking a higher education professional(s) to develop a toolkit that provides both theoretical grounding and actionable frameworks and tools to support our members in the development, delivery, and sustainability of equitable partnerships in international higher education.

The ACU is an international membership organisation dedicated to working with its 500+ member universities across 50 countries to build a better would through higher education. We believe it is essential to support universities’ societal and research roles in tackling global issues in order 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.

Throughout 2021 the ACU has been supporting the Research Fairness Initiative's (RFI) 'Year of Equitable Research Partnerships', during which we are calling for the prioritisation of equitable partnership principles amongst all stakeholders in the research-to-action pathway. A toolkit, utilised by ACU members to inform their ways of working as well as embedded within relevant ACU programmes, will support the application of these principles.

The post-holder will design and deliver the development of this toolkit, engaging with best practice and key literature, whilst also working in partnership with the ACU’s Membership, Programmes, and Research & Insight units, and the Supporting Research Community (SRC) Steering Committee to engage and solicit input from the ACU’s diverse membership.

The toolkit will be finalised by 31 August 2022.

Scope of work

This toolkit will be available to all ACU members and should be able to be utilised in a variety of ways, for example:

  • To inform the development of internationalisation strategies
  • To inform senior leadership discussions about mainstreaming best practices that ensure equity in partnership working between institutions both within and beyond the HE sector
  • To provide practical tools and frameworks that support academics and administrators working in collaborative research projects, including community-based participatory research and working with indigenous communities
  • To inform plans for joint applications to ACU grants and awards
  • As an introduction and guide for undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff on key principles of equitable partnership working

The toolkit should represent international perspectives and include theoretical grounding, as well as examples of actionable frameworks and tools to support ACU members in the development, delivery, and sustainability of partnerships that are equitable. The toolkit should be accessible and translatable to different contexts across the Commonwealth.

The development of the toolkit will be conducted between March-August 2022 and build on the work of the ACU and our partners.

Key stakeholders

The primary recipient of the work will be the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), who will make the toolkit available for use by ACU members and within relevant ACU programmes and other activities.


The purpose of the toolkit is to support staff and students at ACU members in the development, delivery, and sustainability of equitable partnerships in international higher education, thus contributing to addressing imbalances within global higher education. Target users could be anyone working to develop and manage international research partnerships, delivering community-based participatory research, and/or working with indigenous communities.

Objectives of this project are:

  1. To conduct a mapping of current activities, frameworks, best practice, and literature in relation to equitable partnerships in international higher education
  2. To engage ACU staff, ACU members, and sector experts in the scoping and design of the toolkit, ensuring diverse input in the assessment of the utility of various tools, such as the RFI
  3. To develop a toolkit for the development, delivery, and sustainability of equitable partnerships in international higher education that is accessible and translatable to the diverse contexts of the Commonwealth


Applicants should propose a methodology and a tentative work schedule that delivers the objectives within scope of work.

The ACU welcomes applications that include participatory approaches during both project inception and implementation.

The ACU also welcomes collaborative proposals involving multiple institutions.


The post-holder will be required to deliver the following:

  1. A project workplan agreed by relevant stakeholders
  2. A draft toolkit to be tested and reviewed by relevant stakeholders
  3. A final toolkit which includes:
    • Theoretical grounding and mapping of key literature and best practice in relation to equitable partnerships in international higher education
    • Actionable frameworks and tools that can be utilised by staff and students within the diverse ACU membership to develop, deliver, and sustain equitable partnerships in international higher education
  4. A dissemination meeting to present the toolkit to key stakeholders


Please submit the following documents to  by 28 February at 23:59 UTC.

  • Technical proposal (3 pages maximum) including proposed methodology and delivery plan including inception phase
  • Full budget that aligns with stated delivery plan and team profile
  • Organisation profile (including expertise in developing toolkits or similar projects) and CVs of proposed project team (max 2 pages each).

Evaluation criteria for applications

This assignment will require a higher education professional, or small team of higher education professionals, who will work in close collaboration with the ACU.

The criteria for the evaluation of applications are:

  • Experience of working with universities, internationally located, particularly in relation to research and partnerships.
  • Experience of developing toolkits, particularly in relation to higher education and research.
  • Strength and appropriateness of proposed methodology and demonstrated ability to engage diverse stakeholders and sources to achieve objectives.
  • Value for money.
  • Demonstrated ability to deliver projects virtually.

Download the application pack