1. University World News

Centres of Excellence project bequeaths research hubs (Africa)

The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) plans to establish regional research hubs in at least four universities that are hosting the Eastern and Southern African Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE II) at a cost of US$2 million. In a move that will be preceded by the setting up of incubation centres in the institutions, later transiting into research centres, selected universities will each receive up to US$250,000 to help them set up the hubs. The amount will go towards improvement of infrastructure and for supporting selected projects. The incubation centres, also to be known as “learning factories” will bring universities and industry together, providing graduate students and faculty with a platform to commercialise their research and academic output, says the IUCEA. The four regional research hubs will represent all the disciplines of the World Bank-funded initiative, including industry, agriculture, health, and education and statistics, which have been identified as priority areas for the socio-economic growth of target countries. “Through establishment of incubation centres, we aim to develop the region’s four best ACEs into regional research hubs that will demonstrate the pathways for the transformation of research outcomes into innovative products or policies,” the IUCEA said in last month’s edition of the ACE II newsletter. Universities to host the centres will be picked competitively, according to a call issued by the regional universities body, and will depend on existing facilities, including laboratories, working spaces and offices and internet infrastructure, among other criteria. The quality and volume of education and research produced by an institution, and its proximity to an industrial nucleus, or its established relationship with industry will also be a factor, as will ability to co-finance the incubation centre, and clear strategies demonstrating sustainability of a hub beyond ACE II’s five years’ lifespan. “Implementers of ACE II Project should strive to ensure that research findings and innovation outputs generated are turned into tangible and impactful products and services for the socio-economic development of society,” according to IUCEA.

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  1. University World News

Seeding Labs – A catalytic opportunity to drive discovery (Africa)

The discovery by a Harvard molecular biology doctoral student of troves of unused and underused scientific laboratory equipment in a university basement was the impetus behind a project which has today brought equipment worth over US$30 million to 63 institutions in 33 countries around the world. Nina Dudnik, the original thinker behind the Seeding Labs concept said when she found the equipment, she realised that someone, somewhere could make good use of it, with the potential to conduct cutting-edge research. “The mission of Seeding Labs, broadly, is about ensuring that talented people wherever they are in the world have the opportunity to drive discovery,” Dudnik told University World News. The Instrumental Access programme of Seeding Labs, a non-profit organisation based in Boston, connects universities and research institutes in developing countries with high-quality surplus lab equipment provided by donors. The organisation celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this year. Equipment as catalyst: “We start with the equipment because it’s a catalyst. We have seen this over the years – it catalyses transformation across institutions of science,” she said. According to Dudnik, one or two years after receiving equipment, the curriculum of the institution tends to change and improve because hands-on training of students improves. “Masters and PhD students can finish their dissertations, lecturers can complete their research that was previously stuck and they don’t have to leave their country to conduct their analysis,” said Dudnik. She said the equipment also gives researchers the infrastructure to expand collaborations both at home and abroad. “We have seen this turning into new funding for research. And what we are seeing, which is very exciting now, are the actual products coming out of research that’s being done, including a few that have provisional patents,” she said.

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  1. University World News

Discord over proposed changes to education trust fund (Nigeria)

Public and private tertiary education institutions are at loggerheads over a proposal to widen access to the country’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to include private institutions. The fund is currently responsible for managing and disbursing the education tax to public tertiary institutions. According to informed sources, some key members of the National Assembly have been successfully lobbied by private universities to ensure that TETFund law is amended to accommodate tertiary institutions. Thus two separate bills proposing the amendments have scaled through the first and second readings. These bills seek to ensure that the TETFund allocates to private universities about 10% of the 2% of all company taxes collected; and 17.5% of the taxes for federal tertiary health institutions and teaching hospitals in the country. However, controversy over the plans has prompted the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education – which continues to receive memoranda from both sides – to schedule another public hearing on the complex issue. There have been four attempts in the last five years to amend the laws relating to the fund. In a rare show of solidarity, during the first public hearing, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC), and the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the head of TETFund rejected moves by private tertiary institutions to become integral beneficiaries of the fund.

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