27 January 2022

Forging connections and collaboration across the Commonwealth: A Review of the Commonwealth Academic Fellowship Programme

Academic Fellowships: Executive Summary 649 KB | 6 pages

Academic Fellowships: Full Report 1,602 KB | 96 pages

As well as offering Scholarships for postgraduate and doctoral study, the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission has funded almost 2,500 Academic Fellowships since 1969, providing early and mid-career academics from across the Commonwealth with the opportunity to work and undertake research at UK universities. The CSC Evaluation Team recently undertook a review of the programme using data gathered from the 2015-2017 cohorts. The aim was to identify the outcomes, impact, and the scope of the potential short and long-term benefits of the Academic Fellowships on the Fellows’ Host institutions in the UK and their employing institutions in their home countries, as well as on the Fellows themselves.

The CSC is pleased to share the findings from this review, which explored the knowledge and skills enhanced by the Fellowship and sought to investigate the extent to which these were applied in the activities of the Fellows upon returning home. It also examined the role of the Fellowship in cultivating and strengthening new and existing collaborations and networks in research and other areas, and how these links have influenced the activities of the Fellows and the home and Host institutions. To do so, surveys were conducted with 55 Fellows from the 2015-2017 cohort, 43 Host Supervisors, and 18 Employers of the Fellows.

The findings demonstrate that the Fellowship programme enhanced the knowledge and skills of the Fellows and that the skills and expertise acquired were applied extensively in teaching and research, amongst other areas, as revealed by one of the Fellows as follows;

“My association with the Commonwealth Fellowship has brought high level legitimacy and recognition to my work. This has brought more responsibilities and leadership roles in my university. I have been able to translate my UK experiences in flood risk management into field interventions in my home country. My Commonwealth Fellowship experiences have opened new opportunities. I have also maintained relationships with my host institution in the UK. Three of my Postgraduate students have benefited from the resulting student/staff exchange program with my UK host institution. My experience has been great and highly rewarding.” – Quote from a 2015 Academic Fellow, 18 months survey

Furthermore, the review revealed that the programme provided a platform to cultivate relationships, research collaborations and networks between individuals and between institutions that are long-lasting, as highlighted by one Employer as follows;

“Most importantly, his Fellowship culminated in the signing of an MOU between our universities. The MOU has resulted in collaborations in the areas of joint curriculum development, joint PhD supervision and student and staff exchange. Specifically, two teams from the Host institution have visited our university to discuss areas of collaborations. We also received donations of books to our department and a PhD scholarship was awarded to one of the students on a joint supervision basis. Similarly, two PhD students and staff of the department will be at the Host institution for a three-month visit under a student exchange project in 2018.”

Overall, the review demonstrates the importance of the Fellows’ individual placements, and their catalytic impacts on the capacity development of Commonwealth higher education institutions and the wider benefits realised as a result. For a quick overview of the Academic Fellowship Programme and its outcomes, see the Executive Summary or view the infographic. For a more detailed account, read the Full Report