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UK and Kenyan university leaders meet to discuss opportunities for collaboration

​Richard Grubb, Senior Policy Officer, Sub-Saharan Africa & International Development

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Senior university leaders from the UK and Kenya met in London in March 2019 for a roundtable discussion organised by UUKi and the Kenyan High Commission in London. Representatives expressed their commitment to working together more closely following the UK's departure from the European Union.

A delegation of 10 Kenyan vice-chancellors, led by Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary, Amb. Dr Amina Mohamed, were visiting the UK for a series of meetings with sector representatives that culminated in the annual Kenyan Students Conference, hosted by Nottingham Trent University. The roundtable provided an opportunity for Kenyan delegates, including Kenyan High Commissioner, Amb. Manoah Esipisu, to discuss opportunities for increased collaboration with their UK counterparts.

The UK and Kenya already have a strong relationship in higher education with the UK second only to the USA in terms of collaborative research publications over the past five years. There are more than 2,000 Kenyan students studying in the UK this academic year (2018–19), and a growing number of UK universities such as the University of Sunderland and the University of London have established TNE operations with Kenyan partners.

Amb Mohamed, noted that the United Kingdom is the host to some of the best institutions of higher learning in the world and expressed her belief that the world today demands global collaborations to thrive and to find new knowledge. She continued that: "as old friends and allies, Kenya and the UK have no shortage of that collaborative and forward-looking spirit".

The event was chaired from the UK side by Dr David Pilsbury, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International Development) at Coventry University and Joint Chair of the UUKi Pro-Vice Chancellor Network. Dr Pilsbury drew attention to a range of existing successful UK-Kenya partnerships such as the University of Nottingham's SPHEIR partnership that is enhancing courses in chemistry and pharmacy; the Newton Utafiti programme which has seen the UK partner with Kenya's Ministry of Education, Science & Technology, to deliver funding for collaborative programmes between the two countries; and the Global Challenges Research Fund which has allowed researchers in the UK to work with Kenyan counterparts on multi-million pound challenge-based research projects. 

UUKi Director, Vivienne Stern, stressed the importance of the UK's post-Brexit international opportunities and pointed to the potential of changes in funding post-Brexit. The UK government has recently launched an independent review to assess and make recommendations on future frameworks for international collaboration, and this represents opportunities to broaden the geographical reach of existing funding models.

The importance of shared priorities was highlighted by Amb. Mohamed who drew reference to President Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda which focuses on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal healthcare. The agenda forms the centrepiece of President Kenyatta's new term in office and presents opportunities for UK universities with specialisation in these areas.

There was strong agreement that a similar event to this roundtable should be replicated on an annual basis and Amb. Mohamed invited UK representatives to Nairobi to partake in next year's event. There was also a commitment to develop a joint statement of intent following the discussion and to ensure that commitments made on the day are followed up next year – hopefully around a table in Nairobi. 

​Richard Grubb, Senior Policy Officer, Sub-Saharan Africa & International Development

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