University partnerships can increase research capacity

Developing national health research capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is a key element toward strengthening their health systems. Collaborations with universities in high -income countries may be an important tool in building research capacity, but often suffer from imbalanced power relations.

Nelson Sewankambo from Makerere University, Uganda and Stefan Peterson from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and colleagues describe their experience of setting up a mutually beneficial collaboration between the Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University in Uganda.

The partnership, which was initiated in 2000, developed a model where PhD students receive a single qualification from both universities (a joint PhD degree). By doing a joint PhD degree Ugandan students have benefitted from being able to work within Uganda while having the opportunity to travel to Sweden for specialized courses and supervision. 28 joint PhD degrees have been issued so far.

The partnership has enabled students to tackle locally relevant health research questions prioritized by Makerere University and has achieved zero brain drain. All the graduates have stayed in Uganda after completing their PhDs, with the exception of short or long postdoc periods abroad. The partnership has also strengthened Karolinska Institutet to better tackle global health issues, and improve its education.

The authors conclude, "[u]ltimately, creating national funding lines for research in Africa's growing economies will be the key to developing and sustaining sufficient national capacities."

Source: Public Library of Science


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