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A centre of excellence on genomics and bioinformatics. A story of change from KCMUCo, Tanzania


RESUME: The Building Stronger Universities programme has had an impact on virtually every aspect of institutional, educational and research activities at Kilimanjaro Medical University College. Not only has it contributed to building the university’s institutional capacity but also the capacity of individuals studying and working there: from updating laboratories, supporting PhD candidates and strengthening e-services, to increasing research output and international cooperation, to name just a few of the many improvements made. This has sent Kilimanjaro Medical University College well on its way to independence as a fully fledged university in its own right.

By Elton Kisanga,  Associate Professor, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College (KCMUCo) in northern Tanzania is currently a constituent college of Tumaini University Makumira. Its primary function as a university college is to train highly qualified human resources for health at PhD, MSc and Postdoc levels. This is in line with the Ministry of Health’s Health Sector Strategic Plan 2021-2026 that emphasises developing a solid academic and research community in health policy, public health, food and nutrition, preventive medicine, medical and rehabilitative services and evidence-based healthcare.

KCMUCo is currently in the process of becoming a university in its own right. To receive full accreditation we must fully comply with the University Qualifications Framework (UQF) regulated by Tanzania Commission for Universities. We would never have got this far without a well-qualified teaching staff and a conducive environment for learning, teaching and research.

Much of the credit for this goes to the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) programme that was initiated in 2011 at KCMUCo in collaboration with Copenhagen University‘s Centre for Medical Parasitology. The programme will draw to a close at the end of this year (2023). In the course of the three BSU phases, the programme has strengthened both the capacities of individual students and of the institution as a whole.

Institutional capacity building
There seem to be no areas at the institutional level that the BSU programme has not touched: grants and administrative systems, human resources, university-wide services, the teaching and learning infrastructure, postgraduate training, research capacity and research outputs, local and international collaborations, linkage with stakeholders and outreach practices. The list is long and they have all been strengthened as a result of the programme activities.

Here are a number of examples that illustrate the range of positive developments at institutional level in practical terms.

  • Our labs have received updated equipment.
  • The e-services across the college have been strengthened making various new learning and management platforms accessible to both students and staff.
  • The PhD centre has been improved.
  • Three members of the academic staff have successfully defended their PhD theses thereby consolidating our compliance as an institution with the UQF.
  • Our research output continues to increase in terms of the number of publications and grants awarded to the college.

As for international collaboration, we have developed a novel and cross-cutting Centre of Excellence in Genomics and Bioinformatics (CoE-GB), a unique platform that offers services to the East African region. Furthermore, there is a potential for upscaling the platform through our collaboration with Jimma University in Ethiopia and the State University of Zanzibar, with the support of a project funded by Danida (SCCOPET).

The course in Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights is a unique course that offers golden opportunities for young researchers in the south to explore the opportunities entrepreneurship has to offer, from the development of an idea to the making of an actual product with commercial potential.

The policy briefings and dialogue we have had with policy makers, planners and various stakeholders at the ministries have contributed to changes in policy and practices.

Individual capacity building
The successful defense of their PhD theses by three members of staff has contributed not only to the building of our institutional capacity, as mentioned earlier, it is also to be seen as their personal gain as individuals. All three were supported by the BSU programme.

Edited by Kate Girvan




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