Global and development-related research

Makerere-UiB: a new frame agreement

In late November 2013, the coordinators from Makerere University and UiB met in Bergen to kick-start the process towards a new frame agreement.

Sverre Ole Drønen

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In February 2013, Makerere University and the University of Bergen (UiB) celebrated 25 years of collaborations with a day-long celebration in Kampala, home of Makerere. UiB’s then rector, Professor Sigmund Grønmo, headed the delegation from Bergen.

In November 2013, Professor Edward K. Kirumira of Makerere visited Bergen to begin the work towards a new frame agreement between the two universities.

“We hope that this will be signed by the two parties in September or October 2014,” says Edward K. Kirumira when we meet him at UiB Global’s offices.

Meeting in Bergen
Professor Kirumira is Makerere’s coordinator for the UiB collaboration, a position he has held since 2004. Whilst in Bergen he met with UiB’s Senior Executive Officer Thelma Kraft and Professor Thorkild Tylleskär, who have been coordinators on the UiB side of the collaboration since 2003 and 2005 respectively.

“The thing is that this collaboration has functioned very well, so the way we viewed it when starting discussions was to keep most of the current agreement in place and identify areas where improvement is possible,” says Thorkild Tylleskär.

“One of the features of the current collaboration is that what started out as personal relationships between researchers, has transformed into an institutional collaboration,” concurs Kirumira, who believes that Norwegian foreign aid has been vital to building this strong relationship.

“The NUFU, and to some extent NOMA, programme, as well as support for some projects funded by the Research Council of Norway, has been vital for building capacity at Makerere.”

Nurturing the talent
Today most faculties and a number of departments and research centres at both Makerere and UiB are involved in the collaboration to some degree.

“We have created a critical mass and want to build and strengthen our research team at Makerere,” says Kirumira pointing out that the UiB-Makerere collaboration has been a driving factor in educating Ugandan talent.

“Now we want to bid for EU and Norwegian research grants. The challenge for us will be to nurture the people that we have trained through the UiB-Makerere collaboration and to see Makerere’s research capacity grow.”

One special aspect of the Makerere-UiB agreement is that not only is there a research and education component, but administrative units are involved as well. Kirumira believes that this has been a key to the success of capacity-building at Makerere.

“When the UiB-Makerere agreement moved into supporting and building capacity in finance, management, human resources, and, last but not least, the library at Makerere, the collaboration went through yet another transformation,” he says. “This touched on the broader institutional framework at Makerere and the whole institution feels the benefit of the support from UiB.”

A joint PhD programme
Due to the current collaboration’s success, the group of coordinators have only made minor changes to the existing agreement. But one of the things they propose is to finally get a programme for joint PhDs in motion. Despite grand ambitions, so far the only joint degree between Makerere and UiB is Grace Ndeezi’s PhD at the Centre for International Health in October 2011.

“We really need to launch this joint PhD properly,” says Tylleskär who talks about getting the practicalities in place and is stressing UiB’s major responsibility to make this work.

Hub for capacity-building
Another important factor is to build on the capacity-building success at Makerere, so that the university becomes a hub for capacity-building in the rest of Uganda and other countries in Eastern Africa.

“There are six NORHED projects that involve both UiB and Makerere. This reflects the strong relationship between Bergen and Makerere,” says Kirumira referring to a new programme established by Norway’s state aid organisation Norad and that aims for capacity-building. He hopes that NORHED will take Norwegian aid to African higher education one step further. “But we have just moved into NORHED, and we are still trying to understand what that means in practical terms.”

“With NORHED, Makerere becomes the responsible partner for more projects. Four out of the six projects are led by them. This is a good and wished-for development,” says Tylleskär. “However, this does not mean that UiB can run away from our overall responsibility after all these years of collaborating with Makerere. I believe we need to keep a close eye on developments to make sure that progress is maintained.”

Agreement signing next autumn
If everything goes according to plan, the team of coordinators hope to be able to welcome a delegation from UiB, headed by Rector Dag Rune Olsen and Vice-Rector for International Affairs Anne Christine Johannessen, to Kampala to sign the agreement next autumn. Whereas the previous frame agreement was for a 15-year period, the coordinators suggest that the new frame agreement will be for renewable five-year periods.