African universities struggle for research funding

Association of Commonwealth Universities survey also highlights gender inequalities in academic appointments

二月 22, 2023
Source: iStock

Significant disparities persist in access to research funding between higher and lower income Commonwealth countries, a survey has found.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) report also revealed gender inequalities in research appointments.

The inaugural ACU Measures Survey polled 95 universities across 29 member countries – representing more than 100,000 academic staff on five continents.

Universities in lower income countries (LIC) were found to commit more than double the amount of institutional income to supporting research than those in high income countries (HIC) and received 50 per cent less income from industry collaborations.

European respondents were the only region where all participating institutions report receiving some funding from their national governments.

By contrast, 17 per cent of African institutions reported receiving no government funding at all for research.

The majority (54 per cent) of research budgets in HIC were found to be funded by external grant income. 

And institutions in these countries submitted an average of 1,000 research grant applications – compared with an average of just 44 from those in LIC.

William Bramwell, senior research officer at the ACU, said the results provided a unique snapshot into research support structures.

“The findings highlight longstanding disparities that continue to shape the wider research and research funding landscape, as well the different ways in which ACU members navigate and respond to these across all regions,” he said.

The survey identified persisting gender imbalances in academic appointments between richer and poorer nations.

While 51 per cent of PhD graduates in HIC were women, just 21 per cent were outside this group.

The ACU said these divides represent a “major obstacle in the drive for inclusive and equitable access to higher education by 2030” – a target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The results also showed that doctoral enrolment rates in LIC were 12 times lower than those in HIC.

This has “significant implications for the creation of new knowledge and addressing the SDGs”, the ACU warned.



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