7 March 2022

Knowledge, Networks and Development: 20 years of Commonwealth Professional Fellowships

Professional Fellowships Review: Full report 1,602 KB | 96 pages

Professional Fellowships Review: Executive summary 1,540 KB | 6 pages

‘In my career, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened’ said Dr Akinniyi Ayobami Adeleke, reflecting on the transformative impact of his CSC Professional Fellowship. As Head Librarian at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria, Dr Adeleke continually applies the advanced computer programming and management skills gained through his Fellowship at the University of East London towards the upgrading and modernisation of his university’s library services, as well as the upskilling of his colleagues. By continuing to liaise and collaborate with international peers that he met through the Fellowship, he is in a position to ensure that his institution, and well as his wider community of librarians in Nigeria, benefit from constant exposure to global best-practice.

Dr Adeleke is just one of 1,390 individuals to have benefitted from the CSC Professional Fellowship over the past twenty years. Since 2001, the CSC has been supporting mid-career professionals from lower and middle-income Commonwealth countries to complete professional placements at a variety of UK Host organisations, including universities, NGOs, research institutions and local government. The aim of the programme has been to provide development-focused professionals, working in areas as varied as library management, public health, conflict resolution and beekeeping, with the opportunity to enhance knowledge and skills in their given sector, and to have catalytic effects on their workplaces.

In a new review of the programme, ‘Knowledge, Networks and Development: 20 years of Commonwealth Professional Fellowships’ the CSC Evaluation team examined data from Professional Fellows, their UK Hosts and their home employers to investigate what motivated Fellows and Hosts to participate in the scheme, and how the various stakeholders benefitted from the knowledge and skills gained, and the professional networks established through the Fellowship.

Through analysis of more than 1,000 survey responses from Fellows, Hosts and Employers, interviews with seven alumni of the programme, and a focus group with 15 Host organisations, it was revealed that the Professional Fellowship programme has been highly successful in its mission to equip talented mid-career professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to effect positive change and innovations within their workplaces and in their wider professional fields. From leading prison reform in Kenya, to overhauling clinical psychology practices in Bangladesh or introducing environmentally sustainable farming in Tanzania, CSC Professional Fellows are implementing their learnings and making their impact felt across the Commonwealth.

‘There are now plans to roll out the training module that I developed [on psychological support provision] based on Fellowship learnings throughout the country. We’ll be providing the same training [to professionals in the field], who are distributed all over the country. So, it’s building more professionals and paraprofessional, for national impact.’
– Dr Kamruzzaman Mozumder, 2017 Professional Fellow

The data reveals that Hosts also benefit significantly from their participation in the programme, most notably through strengthening their international networks and operations, while employers benefit from their returning Fellows upgraded skills, as well as increased opportunities for international collaborations.

‘Our primary motivation has always revolved around building stronger and more meaningful relationships with our partners in developing countries. Hosting a Fellow allows for a dedicated period of training and working together which engenders new ideas and serves as a catalyst for new and better work in the future.’ – Professional Fellowship Host

To find out more about how alumni of the CSC Professional Fellowship programme are creating meaningful, long-term impact in a variety of development-focused sectors across the Commonwealth, read our executive summary or full report.