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Request for proposals: Supporting research study

Deadline: Extended to 27 June at 23:59 UTC 

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (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.

Supporting research is a key pillar in this overarching mission. However, an unequal global research system is challenging the extent to which research systems and structures can be conducive to supporting excellent and diverse research that can meet the societal challenges we face locally, nationally, and internationally.

To address this imbalance the ACU works with its diverse membership to strengthen research, including through skills and capacity development of individual researchers, strengthening institutional research support structures, and facilitating a strengthened evidence-based policy and practice ecosystem.

There is growing recognition of the importance of research for addressing global challenges and with this, a growing interest from global and national funders in supporting research functions in universities to maximise the impact of their research on society. Therefore, there is also increasing pressure on universities to achieve this impact, and the ACU is hearing from members that there is a need for more projects and initiatives that support this agenda.

To enable ACU members to meet this challenge and building on the ACU’s track record in this area, the ACU is planning to develop an overarching strategy to support research functions, processes, and systems with our members across the Commonwealth.

To support this strategy development, the ACU would like to appoint a research strategy/management/services expert with international experience to conduct a review of the current support structures for research and provide recommendations on how the ACU can continue to strengthen the research capacity of universities across the Commonwealth. This work will be done in close partnership with the ACU’s membership, programmes, and business development unit, as well as the ACU’s Supporting Research Community (SRC) Steering Committee.

Scope of work

A consultant will be appointed to undertake a scoping study that will inform how the ACU can best support the research functions of its member universities across the Commonwealth. Historically, the ACU has supported research at member universities through programmes and initiatives designed to strengthen capacity for research strategy and policy, research management and research uptake. In addition, the ACU brings together staff at member universities who are involved in supporting the research process through the ACU SRC. In order to support the capacity strengthening of research offices and staff, the SRC brings together colleagues from across the Commonwealth and creates a space for sharing knowledge, experience and good practice, discussing issues and solutions, showcasing ideas, and discovering potential avenues for collaboration. The scoping study will be conducted in July-August 2021 and build on the ACU’s track record in supporting research and leverage the experience and expertise of the ACU SRC.

Key stakeholders

  • ACU membership, programmes, and business development unit
  • ACU SRC Steering Committee

The primary recipient of the work will be the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). Beyond the primary recipient, this work will be shared with the ACU SRC Steering Committee, ACU SRC members, and with partners and stakeholders working with the ACU in this area.


The purpose of the scoping study is to inform the ACU’s strategy to support research management functions, processes, and systems across the Commonwealth.
Objectives of this scoping study are:

  1.  A mapping of current activities, projects, funding mechanisms, and sector actors currently operating across the Commonwealth that support the strengthening of research systems and processes
  2. To understand and synthesise the diverse research support needs of the ACU members
  3. To understand the opportunities and challenges to supporting research in ACU member universities
  4. To identify and highlight potential partners and sources of funding for new initiatives that support the strengthening research agenda


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 post-holder will be required to deliver the following:

  1. An inception report following project set-up (expected by Friday 16th July 2021)
  2. A comprehensive final report which includes:
  • An overview of current activities, projects, funding mechanisms and sector actors that support research across the Commonwealth
  • A competitor and collaborator analysis of non-governmental organisations, membership bodies, professional associations and other higher education-focused organisations working in the supporting research space across the Commonwealth
  • A summary of the research support needs identified across the ACU member community highlighting opportunities for ACU engagement
  • Recommendations for how the ACU can develop a strong portfolio of activities that support research across the Commonwealth
  • A dissemination meeting to present and discuss findings with key stakeholders


Please submit the following documents to by 23:59 UTC on 27 June 2021:

  • 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 detail of scoping studies completed in the past) and CVs of proposed project team (max 2 pages each)
  • A sample report from a previous scoping study

Evaluation criteria for applications

This assignment will require a researcher or small team of researchers, who will work in close collaboration with the ACU.

The criteria for the evaluation of applications is:

  • Experience of working with universities, internationally located, particularly in relation to research support, planning and/or delivery
  • Experience of conducting scoping studies for organisational strategy development or similar
  • Strength and appropriateness of proposed methodology and evidence of data collection, analysis, and synthesis skills
  • Value for money
  • Adequate planning for risks associated with Covid-19 and demonstrated ability to deliver projects virtually when required

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