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Concluding 12 years of Building Stronger Universities


The first three phases of the Building Stronger Universities programme have concluded. In November 2023, Danida Fellowship Centre therefore convened a meeting of representatives of the programme partners from Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Denmark at MS TCDC in Arusha Tanzania. The aim was to assess and discuss the programme’s achievements and results, and explore how experiences from this extensive cross-border and cross-continental university partnership network could inform future endeavors.

By Vibeke Quaade

In the inaugural phase of the Building Stronger Universities programme in 2011, the objective was to bolster the research and teaching capabilities of eight participating universities in Tanzania, Ghana, Nepal, Kenya and Uganda. A consortium of Danish universities joined forces for this purpose, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark providing the financial support. The Danish universities administered the programme during its first years. During the initial phase, spanning from 2011 to 2014, focus was primarily on advancing PhD studies and refining the universities’ overall administrative structures.

The programme widened its scope in the subsequent second phase, from 2014 to 2017, prioritising the establishment and enhancement of administrative frameworks to improve research capacity. Furthermore, Building Stronger Universities transitioned into a south-driven programme in the second phase, with the aim of creating a collaborative environment where mutual learning could thrive and knowledge was shared among partners. From phase 2, Danida Fellowship Centre became the administrator of the general grant.

During the programme’s first phases, first Kenya phased out after the completion of BSU I, then Nepal after the completion of BSU II, but both in line with evolving Danida priorities. However, the remaining six universities, in Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania, persevered into the programme’s third phase.

While all the partner representatives that met at the concluding seminar at MS TCDC have collaborated since the very beginning for the programme, for many it was the first time in years they had met in person. And after three days of delving into the programme’s experiences, accomplishments, and both positive and negative lessons learned, it was clear that the cross-border university collaboration had been beneficial for both research, teaching, and institutional capacity building at all the participating universities. Furthermore, there was no doubt that the knowledge, experience and bonds generated among both admin and academic staff will be of great value in future university and research networks as well as in the fourth phase of Building Stronger Universities initiated in June 2023.

Since the beginning of the Building Stronger Universities programme, it has contributed to a broad spectrum of enhancements of the participating universities. Research laboratories, libraries, IT infrastructure, pedagogical approaches, university wide policies, and financial management procedures have seen marked improvements. The universities have crafted and implemented new policies and guidelines, along with developing and rolling out postgraduate- and PhD courses, as well as online and blended learning programmes.

The impact of all these efforts extends beyond infrastructure and courses. Many of the PhD graduates fostered by the Building Stronger Universities programme have assumed permanent roles at their universities, thereby elevating both research and teaching capacities at their respective institutions. Moreover, the universities have actively sought to engage and serve their immediate communities, particularly addressing challenges related to peace building and reconciliation, youth unemployment, health, and climate change. Many of the chosen themes for research and training also link to global development challenges, from addressing climate change and genetic sequencing, to predicting epidemics, promoting sustainable tourism, and contributing to peace and reconciliation efforts.

All in all, the Building Stronger Universities programme is a clear example of successful collaboration in higher education.

Read the overview articles and watch the videos about the six universities’ participation in Building Stronger Universities III 

Gulu University, Uganda

State University of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College (KCMUCo), Tanzania

University of Ghana, Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana

List of participating Southern universities in BSU I – III

  • Maseno University, Kenya – BSU I.
  • Tribhuvan University, Nepal – BSU I.
  • Kathmandu University, Nepal – BSU II.
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana – BSU I-III.
  • University of Ghana, Ghana – BSU I-III.
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania – BSU I-III.
  • Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, Tanzania – BSU I-III.
  • State University of Zanzibar, Tanzania – BSU I-III.
  • Gulu University, Uganda – BSU I-III.

List of participating Danish universities in BSU I – III

  • University of Copenhagen – BSU I-III.
  • Aarhus University – BSU I-III.
  • Aalborg University – BSU I-III.
  • University of Southern Denmark – BSU I-III.
  • Roskilde University – BSU I-III.
  • Technical University of Denmark – BSU I-III
  • Copenhagen Business School – BSU I
  • Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art – BSU II.
  • State Serum Institute – BSU I-II.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark’s support to Building Stronger Universities

  • Overall budget frame BSU I: DKK 60,000,000
  • Overall budget frame BSU II: DKK 100,000,000.
  • Overall budget frame BSU III: DKK 90,000,000.

Watch the videos and read participants’ story of change 

Watch the video and read more about Building Stronger Universities IV

Further information about Building Stronger Universities, contact email laj@dfcentre.dk Lars Arne Jensen Research Programme Manager, Danida Fellowship Centre

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