In the fourth phase of the ambitious Danida-supported Building Stronger Universities programme, three universities in East Africa will collaborate with Danish university partners to strengthen research and research-led learning and administrative systems for the benefit of the region. While Gulu University from Uganda and the State University of Zanzibar also took part in the previous phase, the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland is new to the collaboration.
By Vibeke Quaade
With a grant of 70 million Danish kroner (approximately 10 million US dollars), the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, Mr Dan Jørgensen, has approved the latest phase of the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) programme. Known as BSU IV, this ambitious programme aims to empower universities in East Africa and strengthen research-based training and learning, outreach, and administrative structures for research at the involved universities.
The BSU IV programme, which was launched during an Inception Workshop 7 – 8 June 2023, will continue for a duration of five years. This fourth phase of the programme builds on the results and the experiences of the previous three phases (2011- 2023) which were aimed at increasing the capacity of African universities to undertake teaching, research and outreach with the ultimate goal of generating and applying new knowledge to tackle priority development challenges.
Three main goals
The overarching objectives of the new BSU IV programme are in three key areas. Firstly, it seeks to support universities in enhancing research-based learning and training and expanding their research capacity to produce more graduates and impactful studies. Secondly, the programme aims to assist universities in effectively disseminating research outcomes and engaging in outreach activities to maximize their societal impact. Lastly, it aims to strengthen administrative structures related to research, including grant management and support for e-learning initiatives, in order to ensure a conducive environment for research endeavours.
The East African and Danish university partners
The three East African universities – Gulu University in Uganda, the University of Hargeisa University in Somaliland, and the State University of Zanzibar in Tanzania – have embraced the opportunity to participate in BSU IV with enthusiasm. They will collaborate with a consortium of Danish university partners represented in three different constellations which include the University of Copenhagen, Roskilde University, Aalborg University, Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark, and the Danish Institute for International Studies.
Learning and research for community transformation
Gulu University, located in conflict-prone Northern Uganda, welcomes BSU IV with great anticipation. Through BSU IV and research-based knowledge, Gulu University aims to advocate for the establishment of policies that amplify the voices of vulnerable communities and contribute to their well-being. Additionally, the university aims to leverage this programme to embrace e-learning and digitization and to address critical issues such as sustainable climate change mitigation and the health and reproductive rights of women and girls in Uganda.
Research-based knowledge for the blue economy
At the State University of Zanzibar, BSU IV will expand the portfolio of advanced studies with a particular focus on environmental public health and marine ecosystem health. The university plans to build on the work done in previous BSU phases and further integrate e-learning and blended learning approaches into its courses, enhancing accessibility for students and lecturers alike. The inclusion of a work package on postgraduate education and research will further contribute to the university’s research capabilities. Through collaborative efforts with Danish partners, the State University of Zanzibar aims to generate tested solutions that will inform strategic directions for Zanzibar’s blue economy and engage various stakeholders in the process. The research conducted on environmental public health and marine ecosystem health services is expected to contribute significantly to the local economy.
A stronger university in Somaliland
For the University of Hargeisa, this marks its first involvement in the Building Stronger Universities programme. The programme will introduce various activities, such as PhD and master’s programmes, curriculum review and updates and free e-learning courses accessible through their website. It will also establish policies and governance frameworks to promote sustainable development. The programme will devote particular attention to two crucial areas: mother and child health, and vector-borne disease prevention. By addressing these pressing issues, the University of Hargeisa aims to make a substantial impact on Somaliland by extending the programme’s impact beyond its campus to the wider community.
As this programme unfolds over the next five years, it is expected to foster sustainable development, enhance educational opportunities, and promote positive change in East Africa.