Denmark's research capacity scheme enters second phase
The programme under the Danish International Development Agency, or Danida - which seeks to strengthen research policies, PhD research, development of research concepts and improve libraries and publication management systems - kicked off in January this year.
"We have given institutions in the South more control of what they should do in order to ensure that all activities are driven by actual demand," Anne Christensen, director of the Danida Fellowship Centre, told University World News.
The Building Stronger Universities, or BSU, programme - which aims to strengthen the research capacity of universities in selected Danida priority countries through partnering universities in the South with Danish universities - started in 2010.
The first phase, which ended last year, had 11 universities sharing DKK60 million over two years.
In the pilot phase Danish universities coordinated the programme through four thematic areas: environment and climate, growth and employment, human health, and stability and democracy rights.
Christensen says they have reduced the number of partner countries in this initiative, but the number of Denmark's priority countries remains unchanged. Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Nepal were in the first phase, and so was Kenya but it has been dropped.
The seven universities are: the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana; Sokoine University of Agriculture, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College and State University of Zanzibar in Tanzania; Gulu University in Uganda; and Kathmandu University in Nepal - the only institution that did not participate in the pilot phase.
"It is often the case that more funds are made available in the succeeding phases," said Christensen.
Universities and development
Danida says in a BSU document that universities and research institutions in developing countries are key players in sustainable national development processes, as they provide locally grounded research-based knowledge necessary to address development challenges.
Christensen said the Danida Fellowship Centre, or DFC, will play a larger role in the new phase. Apart from disbursing funds, the centre will play an advisory role and handle project reports, which are now going to be submitted every six months.
"In phase one, we received the financial reports and transferred the funds. Now we will monitor things more closely. We'll ask questions about how projects are progressing and come up with ideas for changes," Christensen said.
A consultant, Nils Boesen was hired in January as a go-between for the ministry and universities.
Christensen explained that BSU funds cannot be used for development research as such, and only a small amount for physical facilities. "Some of the universities might end up not using all the funds allocated."
She said that while there are changes to the original programme, the DFC will continue to administer the winding up of phase one activities which include the completion of almost 40 PhD studies.
A review of the Danish fellowship programme for developing country academics by consultants from Oxford Policy Management in the United Kingdom and SIPU International in Sweden between 2008 and 2012, released in February 2013, found a lack of coordination with other Danish development support.
The reviewers wanted the programme to include and budget for follow-up activities to build more lasting relationships with fellows' home institutions.
Denmark's intention to engage to improve its development research is captured in the "Strategic Framework for Danish Support to Development Research 2014-2018".
The areas of support may include establishment of PhD schools with related course development, courses in better PhD supervision, training in research quality assurance, facility staff exchange and dissemination of research results.