The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Secretariat hosted a joint meeting of ARUA universities Deputy Vice-Chancellors (Research) and Centres of Excellence Directors at the University of Ghana on 20-21 September, 2022.

The ARUA Climate and Development Centre of Excellence, with a hub located at the African Climate and Development Initiative (University of Cape Town), and spoke institutions at the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (University of Ghana), and the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation (University of Nairobi), is one of the 13 CoEs. The Centre is implementing a capacity-building project which is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and hosted an early career researcher who was awarded a one-year ARUA-Carnegie fellowship.

Issues that were discussed in a joint session of the directors and Deputy Vice Chancellors included future Centres of Excellence, collaborative PhD programmes, as well benchmarking against ARUA universities. It is envisaged that seven new ARUA centres of excellence will be created, with priority for hosting given to members who do not currently host any. ARUA will help to mobilise funding to create a framework for six PhD programmes, in collaboration with the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. Benchmarking against other ARUA universities will be enabled through data which is currently being collected and indicators that are being developed.

Below are some of the key points emerging from the discussions held in the meeting.

  • While CoE directors appreciated the funding and support being provided by UKRI and ARUA Secretariat, they also identified inadequate core support for the centres, differing procedures across institutions, inadequate communication by ARUA centres within the same university, and uncertainty about future funding as key the challenges of the ARUA centres. It is expected that a workshop on making the CoEs sustainable will take place next year.
  • The ARUA-Carnegie programme has contributed to the development of the fellows and created opportunities for future collaboration. It was however, highlighted that in some cases it is difficult to publish articles highlighting outputs from the programme because of the short duration of the fellowship.
  • Success stories and good practices in relation to UKRI grant include opportunities for networking, publications, as well as for proposal development.

It is expected that some of these issues, including the new Centres of Excellence, proposed PhD programme, as well as the benchmarking initiative will be discussed further and concluded at the meeting of the ARUA Vice-Chancellors in November.