The Malaria Capacity Development Consortium (MCDC, 2008-2016) was set up to strengthen the capacity of five African university departments to provide international-standard academic, administrative and financial support for research activities.
The Centre for Capacity Research (CCR) began work with the Malaria Capacity Development Consortium since 2009 when the CCR appraised the practices, procedures and facilities for PhD students in five African universities. Examples of good practise, key successes, and gaps within the institutions’ capacity to manage PhD programmes were identified, and recommendations were made for actions to strengthen the programmes. By 2012 many of these recommendations had been implemented and during a follow-up visit, action plans and priorities had been updated.
In 2013,the Centre for Capacity Research expanded their research on PhD programmes to include broader institutional research support systems. By developing and implementing tools to plan, monitor, and evaluate activities to strengthening the research support systems and structures of the African universities, the CCR followed the implementation of these strategies through to March 2016.
The Centre for Capacity Research’s collaborative approach to the project
• CCR conducted a thorough review of relevant published and grey literature to develop a ‘capacity list’ which catalogues all components required by a university or research organisation to achieve optimal research capacity
• Site visits at each institution helped to identify successes, good practice and gaps in capacity, and locally sustainable solutions leading to an institutional action plans to address the gaps
• Through regular contact with research leaders, institutional action plans were monitored, challenges and successes identified, and any problems or revisions to the action plan were supported
• The project provided a unique opportunity to understand how research consortia and institutions operate and how to make them more effective.
Lessons from this project about how to select and manage research consortia, and how to better support PhD students in Africa have been used to guide new initiatives such as the DFID-Royal Society Africa Awards programme designed to enhance science research capacity across Africa.