Yaso Kunaratnam, Jeff Waage, Adrian Bucher and Callum Boyd
UKCDR have undertaken a mapping and analysis of UK investments in Master’s, PhD, postdoctoral and early career awards that support African fellows and scholars between 2014-2019. This report presents an overview of UK investments, learning on models, approaches, evaluation and impact across schemes, and identifies gaps and opportunities for the future.
Through this work, UKCDR aims to contribute to improving research capacity in Africa and enhance the UK Government’s new and distinctive commitment to work alongside, invest in and partner with African nations. In particular, driving greater coherence and impact across UK’s investments in science, technology and innovation, as well as supporting long-term research partnerships between UK and African institutions.
There is strong demand to strengthen African capacity to design and deliver research required to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UK has a long history of supporting research capacity strengthening (RCS) in Africa. As part of this investment, UK government departments, charitable foundations and universities currently operate a range of competitive fellowship and scholarship schemes which select high-achieving and highly-motivated African candidates for postgraduate and early career training in the UK, Africa and beyond. Recent new initiatives in UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) have added to this portfolio.
UKCDR selected to analyse 17 fellowship and scholarship schemes funded by the UK between 2014 and 2019, using desk-based research, quantitative funding data analysis, qualitative analysis and a workshop bringing together over 40 stakeholders and experts to discuss recommendations for the future. This revealed the following findings:
- Through these schemes, four UK Government departments – Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for International Development (DFID), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) – and Wellcome invested and co-invested over £190.8m, supporting 5,633 African fellows and scholars.
- The majority of awards (75.8%) were Master’s degrees, mainly provided by DFID’s Commonwealth Scholarships and FCO’s Chevening Scholarships . PhD, postdoctoral and early career were a support a smaller part of the UK portfolio through newer schemes e.g. Developing Excellence in Leadership Training and Science (DELTAS) and Newton Fund International and Advanced Fellowships.
- Most awards were given for study in the UK (81.8%) and there is a noticeable increase in recent schemes to support training in African institutions. Approximately 19% of awards were hosted in African institutions, mainly in Kenya and South Africa. Just under 3% of UK support went to split-site fellowships between African and UK partner institutions, with one Africa-Africa pairing.
- Geographical distribution of funding showed that most awards go to a small set of African countries. Fellows and scholars from Nigeria (868) received the most awards, followed by Kenya (662), Ghana (535), South Africa (484), Egypt (480) and Uganda (445), accounting for over 60% accumulatively. Regionally, there is greater distribution of awards in West and East Africa.
- Thematically, there was a focus of awards in medical and health sciences (30%) as nearly half of the UK schemes and key funders involved are health-focused. Generally, more awards went to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects compared to social sciences.
- Analysis of gender distribution found that 43.3% of awards went to African women and 55% to African men, and Master’s and early career awards are achieving better gender distribution than PHD and post-doctoral awards.
- Longstanding UK schemes have valuable evaluation expertise and capacity to monitor and measure outputs and outcomes, including tracking over long time periods. Several schemes provided evidence of individual scientific achievements, personal career advancement, improved international research collaborations, institutional capacity development and contributions to policy making. However, robust evidence of impact remains a challenge.
- Brain drain is a widely recognised concern in the field of RCS, but several schemes (such as Commonwealth and Chevening scholarships) showed evidence of high levels of return of fellows to their home countries following training abroad.
This analysis identified five key opportunities for improving UK investment in fellowships and scholarships in Africa in support of RCS:
- Expanding PHD/postdoctoral/early career support through Africa-based and led models that integrate fellowships and scholarships schemes with RCS at an institutional level.
- Cross-scheme alumni networks within specific African countries or in regions to support research careers.
- Developing and sharing common approaches to evaluation of fellowship and scholarship schemes to ensure quality and consistency in evaluating the overall impact of UK support to RCS.
- Sharing of resources on schemes through a common platform.
- Common branding across UK-funded schemes to increase visibility of UK support for RCS in Africa and to support future UK engagement with African governments and regional institutions as part of the UK Government’s new partnerships with Africa.