School of Social and Political Science

Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme


The Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme aims to build stronger relationships between the University of Edinburgh and Africa-based scholars, and to promote research of early-career academics in Africa.

How did the programme start?

The programme began in 2019 with a commitment of £150,000 from the University of Edinburgh to fund Africa-based academics to attend the European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), which was hosted in Edinburgh. A total of 127 scholars from 60 universities and 27 countries received funding for travel and accommodation from a competitive pool of more than 400 applicants.  

Through further funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) of £60,000, the Centre of African Studies organised an intensive five-day workshop that brought back to Edinburgh 20 of these scholars. This workshop brought together both senior and early-career scholars and provided peer-driven critical feedback on manuscripts as well as training on writing for a popular audience, grant writing and research ethics.

What impact is the programme having?

In recognition of the positive impact that long-term support can have on people's careers, the SFC provided further funding of £266,000 for a variety of activities in 2020/21. 

These activities included:

  • Early-career workshops at the University of Ghana and the University of Zimbabwe as well as thematic workshops as follows:
    - Curriculum Decolonisation (Nigeria)
    - Public Health (Ghana)
    - Legal Education (Kenya)
    - Mining and Natural Resources (Mali)
    - Conflict (Nigeria)
  • In addition to the workshops, the Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme has awarded small fieldwork grants of between £1,500 and £7,500 to 33 African academics from across the continent. The projects range from a team building a new form of green house in Nigeria to research on shifts in music forms in Gabon.
  • The programme has also sponsored, alongside the Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH) at University of Edinburgh, a one-month long visiting fellowship for four scholars based at universities in South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Benin.
  • A further four scholars have also received offers to serve as Centre of African Studies Catalyst Visiting Fellows for a three-month period of residency in Edinburgh. These visiting residencies have unfortunately been affected by Covid restrictions, and it is hoped that the residencies can be done in their respective home countries.

The University of Edinburgh point of contact for the Catalyst Fellows programme is Dr Akin Iwilade.