New mathematics research collaboration in Uganda

The Department of Mathematics is entering into a new collaboration programme with Makerere University funded by Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The development of research environments and research education in mathematics is on the agenda.

Foto: Gunilla PravitzWith a five-year Sida grant of approximately SEK 39 million, five Swedish universities – with Linköping University as main applicant – have begun a new collaboration programme with Makerere University in Kampala.

Formally the programme does not start until the middle of the summer, but planning of the new collaboration is already in full swing.

The idea is that we will support Makerere in the creation of research environments for mathematics and with the design of a new research education programme,” says Bengt-Ove Turesson, lecturer in the Department of Mathematics (MAI).

Since 2011 he has been the overall senior coordinator of a similar Sida programme in Rwanda, where teachers from MAI regularly take part in courses and as supervisors for master’s students at the National University. As part of the programme, LiU also accepts PhD students from Rwanda, who thus defend their theses here.

Beyond that, the Department of Mathematics currently has seven PhD students financed by ISP (the International Science Programme at Uppsala University).

“They are from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia,” says Mr Turesson.

Primarily fundamental research

Foto: Makerere UniversityCooperation with East Africa is already well established. At Makerere, the funds will go primarily towards research in mathematics (pictured at right, the main building at the university).

“And, in particular, fundamental research. In East Africa mathematics research has mainly been directed towards applied mathematics. so this will be a little different.”

Linköping University, through MAI, will strengthen mathematics research in a number of different ways, together with Mälardalen University, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm and Uppsala universities and Makerere University.

“Exactly what and how will be decided by Makerere; they are the ones who own the project.”

In the plans are 20 PhD students; a handful of them will be working both in Sweden and in Uganda and will very likely also receive double degrees. But the majority will receive their education in Uganda, and will be selected from existing employees at Makerere University and several other state universities in Uganda. This is both in order to increase competence among university teachers, and so that they will have secure jobs and remain in the research world after getting their PhD.

“We will serve as mentors for supervisors in Uganda and as lead supervisors. We also expect a couple of postdocs per year,” says Mr Turesson, explaining that Didacticum at LiU is also involved in the programme through Anna Bjuremark, lecturer at the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, specifically for training supervisors and possibly also other pedagogical work.

Increased regional collaboration in East Africa

It is not only the research environment at Makerere that will be supported, but mathematics research in general. Conferences are one way for this to happen.

“Hopefully they will lead to increased regional collaboration between those universities in East Africa that have a Sida agreement. LiU may also have a Sida contract and collaboration with Tanzania in the pipeline, with a similar arrangement to the one in Uganda.

In the future many teachers from MAI, researchers, and PhD students will be going back and forth between Campus Valla and East Africa.

What do the Department of Mathematics and LiU get out of the collaboration programme?
“Well, to put it bluntly, we get much-needed external finance and more PhD students,” says Mr Turesson, and continues:

“But it also helps to create a vibrant international environment here. We anticipate that teachers from MAI will be in Uganda for four-week periods, coming back with new experiences, for example of courses we don’t offer and – of course – that will create ripples.”

Footnote: The collaboration programme with Uganda is part of the Swedish Research Training Partnership Programme, with a total budget of SEK 275 million. The SEK 39 million investment in mathematics research is the largest project within the programme.

"Do the math, change the world"

Talks Ted with Paul Vaderlind, Stockholm University, who is collaborating with Bengt-Ove Turesson in Rwanda and Uganda.

Published 2015-03-18

More about the collaboration