A cross continent collaborative project between the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa (SA) has been awarded a R5 million grant from the British Council’s Newton Fund.

The project will see the development of a world-class Master’s and doctoral training programme through a joint partnership between UKZN, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), and the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in South Africa together with University College London (UCL) in the UK. 

South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) proposes that the number of PhD graduates per year – which stood at 1 421 in 2010 – be increased to 5 000 by 2030. In order to achieve this increased output, South African universities would inevitably require a greater number of academic staff to have a PhD qualification – and it is envisaged that this number should increase to 75% of appropriately qualified academics by the year 2030.

The UKZN, MUT and UCL Staff Development Programme (StEP) project aims to equip academic staff to become leaders in their fields – capable of doing excellent research, competing at an international level and providing quality supervision to their future students. In this way, the project will not only build capacity for the current academics in line with the 2030 NDP goal, but also for future scientific leaders in South Africa and African.

The grant will initially support ten MUT and UKZN staff members who work in the fields of Infection and Immunity, Public Health, Chemistry, Drug Discovery and Pharmacology to enroll for PhD and master’s degrees. They will be registered at UKZN, which – together with AHRI – will provide critical local infrastructure for the projects. UCL will provide support in supervising students and in mentoring junior or less experienced primary supervisors. The University will also host students in London for periods of training that will be tailored for each individual student, depending on the nature of the project. UCL will additionally provide access to critical technology such as next generation sequencing, single cell transcriptomics, high resolution imaging, high throughput and high content screening. A key goal will be the strengthening of research and supervisory capacity through visits to UCL for both students and supervisors from UKZN and MUT.

‘We are thrilled to have received this grant’ said Project Lead, Professor Michelle Gordon from UKZN. ‘The ultimate goal is to produce researchers capable of solving the major healthcare challenges in our country and internationally.’

Applications will open on 1 March 2020. All qualifying UKZN and MUT academics who are eager to pursue either a Master’s or PhD degree, or are already registered for one, are encouraged to apply.


1. Professor Michelle Gordon
UKZN Principle Investigator

2. Dr Njabulo Gumede
MUT Principle Investigator