Universities in Africa and Asia Face Funding and Research Support Disparities Compared to Other Regions – ACU survey reveals

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) has published the results of the inaugural ACU Measures Supporting Research Survey, revealing significant disparities in access to funding, research support systems and gender equity in university research ecosystems across the Commonwealth.

The survey found that universities in Africa and Asia have lower access to funding and research support systems than those in Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific region. The survey included 95 universities in 29 countries, representing 20% of the ACU's membership.

The results showed that institutions in low-income countries commit a higher percentage of their core income to support research, receive less income from industry, and win fewer research grants than those in high-income countries. The findings highlight the long-standing disparities that continue to shape the wider research and research funding landscape, according to William Bramwell, Senior Research Officer at the ACU.

Thirty African institutions responded to the survey, more than any other region, and nearly 17% reported that they receive no government funding for research. This is in contrast to Europe, where all participating institutions reported receiving government support. Both Asia and Africa recorded lower rates of grant applications and awarded grants than the other regions, with high-income countries accounting for 88% of research grants applications reported by the participating institutions.

The survey also found an uneven distribution of research support services, with almost all institutions in high-income countries reporting having access to electronic systems and databases to support grant applications, while less than half of lower-income country institutions said the same.

A persisting gender imbalance in academic appointments was also highlighted in the survey, with male staff outnumbering their female counterparts and making up 57% of the academic population.

The survey showed that the number of female PhD students was skewed towards richer Commonwealth countries, where the proportion of female PhD graduates stood at 51% compared to 21% in lower-income countries.

The ACU Measures Supporting Research Survey provides exceptional insight into the research funding landscape, revealing both the scale of university research activities and the types of institutional resource deployed at various stages across the research lifecycle.

Photo courtesy / ACU

Article by Jedidah Mwangi