Key Success Factors
Over the years, USHEPiA has proven to be a highly successful project, which consistently reaches its aims and goals. There are a number of factors that are vital for this success.
- Thorough Advance Consultation
The USHEPiA project emerged from a series of preliminary meetings that established common concerns, and built personal relationships at an early stage. AAU support was politically important in the early stages, as were the reciprocal visits at senior management level (including Vice-Chancellors, Deputy Vice-Chancellors and Deans). The Cape Town workshop and Memorandum of Understanding allowed the interested parties to shape and define the project co-operatively, and was very important to the sense of ownership of those involved.
- Agreed Identification of Objectives
The south-south partnership concept was seen by all parties as a powerful advantage: the project was seen to offer mutual advantage for development and capacity-building within the continent, contrasted with the asymmetrical relationships more customary in north-south programmes. The early discussions between potential partners clarified the specific advantages: UCT, for example, stressed its capacity to take post-graduate students, its desire to develop research relationships within the continent, and the importance of students from other parts of Africa as important role models within the changing South African context. The other partner universities stated their staff development and capacity-building needs, and their desire also to develop continental research relationships. The sharing of a common research tradition – however attenuated by circumstances in some of the partner universities – was a vital underpinning of the programme.
- High-Level Co-Operative Management Backed by Intensive Local Management and Support
The processes followed ensured institutional ownership from the start, at the highest level. As the project developed, the direct involvement and support of the Vice-Chancellors of the partner universities proved crucial in resolving administrative and other difficulties. The professional administrative support of the UCT International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) has also been critical in developing the process, underpinning its implementation, and being able to deal effectively with unforeseen difficulties as they arose.
- Flexible Individual Fellowship Management
The flexibility of the fellowship model has also been important, particularly as far as budgeting is concerned. Each fellowship is individually tailored as part of an interactive process involving the fellow and the two supervisors. The provision of research equipment as part of this process is also expected to contribute to longer-term, sustainable capacity building.
- Enthusiasm Principle
Common interests and capacity have been necessary but insufficient factors in the success of USHEPiA to date. What has been referred to within the USHEPiA administration as the ‘enthusiasm principle’ has been particularly important – in practice this has referred to an assessment of the degree of enthusiasm for the project, starting with the assessment of potential partner universities and continuing with a similar assessment of potential supervisors.
- Network-Development Beyond Individual Fellowship
USHEPiA has been devised to develop networks beyond those involving individual fellows. The programme has developed linkages between universities, departments and supervisors. This has led to other benefits, particularly involving supervisors, such as the appointment of external examiners, and invitations to lecture or deliver seminars.
- Multi-Level, Interacting Linkages
It is suggested that one of the successful characteristics of the USHEPiA network is that it involves successful networking at three levels simultaneously: (1) at the university senior management level, (2) at the departmental level, and (3) at the level of individual Fellows.
- Sustainable Capacity-Building
An attraction of USHEPiA for its participants is its declared aim of sustainable capacity building. Its strategy in this regard includes the involvement of joint supervisors, the emphasis on local research projects, the provision of suitable equipment, and the encouragement on longer-term research co-operation.