A cross continent collaborative project between the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa (SA) has been awarded a R5-million grant from the British Council’s Newton Fund. The project will see the development of a world-class Masters and Doctoral training programme through a joint partnership between the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in South Africa together with University College London (UCL) in the UK.

The UKZN/MUT/AHRI/UCL – Staff Development Programme (SteP) aims to equip academic staff to become leaders in their fields, capable of doing excellent research, competing at an international level and providing quality supervision to their future students. In this way, the project will not only build capacity for the current academics but also for the future scientific leaders in South Africa and on the African continent.

The grant will initially support 10 MUT and UKZN staff members who work in the fields of Infection and Immunity, Public Health, Chemistry, Drug Discovery or Pharmacology to enroll for PhD and Masters degrees. They will be registered at UKZN, who – together with AHRI – will provide critical local infrastructure for the projects. UCL will provide support in supervision and mentorship and will host students in London for periods of training that will be tailored for each individual student, depending on the nature of the project. The university will also provide infrastructure support for projects, including access to critical technology such as next generation sequencing, single cell transcriptomics, high resolution imaging, high throughput and high content screening. A key goal will be the strengthening of research and supervisory capacity through visits to UCL for supervisors from UKZN and MUT.

“We are thrilled to have received this grant,” said project lead Professor Michelle Gordon (UKZN). “The ultimate goal is to produce researchers capable of solving the major health-care challenges in our country and internationally.”

Applications will open in early March 2020, and all qualifying UKZN and MUT academics who are eager to pursue either a Master’s degree or PhD, or are already registered for one, are encouraged to apply.