Representatives and dignitaries from more than 15 African nations have visited Preston to celebrate the work that the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is doing across the continent.
High commissioners, government officials and charity representatives from countries including Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, came together at the University for a special event commemorating the work UCLan has done with its partners in Africa through its educational and community projects.
The University has been working with countries in Africa for over 20 years and currently has more than 300 students from around 25 African countries. Not only does it have a strong history of welcoming international students from the continent, it is also committed to helping UK students study and work in Africa through the International Travel Bursary.
Professor Mike Thomas, UCLan Vice-Chancellor, commented: “As an educational establishment, we have an important role to play in a global society and are already making great strides in Africa through educational partnerships and ventures that really do make a difference to people’s lives.
“For the last six years, engineering and fire leadership students have worked with fire services humanitarian charity Operation Florian to help train local firefighters in Zimbabwe. Nursing, midwifery and sexual health students are involved in an ongoing project with Kenyan charity Maa Child, which supports local children to continue their education. These are just two fantastic examples of how the University is not only making an impact on local communities in Africa, but also enriching students’ education through such unique experiences.”
The University has also won a Times Higher Education Award for another project that initially began in Uganda. The Global Sound Movement project is a unique digital arts initiative that captures the sounds of rare and exotic musical instruments from remote villages across the globe for commercial use with profits donated back to the communities.
Professor Thomas added: “There is a significant amount of innovation currently coming out of Africa and we hope to be able to work in collaboration to harness this for the benefit of all.
“We are working hard to expand our networks across the continent and anticipate an exciting future with partnerships already developing in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This will build on our success with educational institutions in Mauritius and Nigeria and I hope that through these collaborations, we are able to make a difference and help to transform lives in Africa.”
Richard Boadu, the Chief Administrator of the Ghana Education Trust (GETFund) that UCLan is working with to provide educational funding, was at the celebratory dinner and spoke on behalf of the delegates.
He said: “This year, UCLan is celebrating its 190th anniversary. I wish to pause and ask myself where my great, great grandparents were during the establishment of this great institution, most of whom did not have any formal education, either local or abroad. The only reason we as Africans are here today is because of the provision of education from institutions like UCLan. Education is the key to progress.
“On this special occasion, as the theme for the event is ‘Transforming Lives’, I wish on my behalf and on the behalf of my fellow Africans present here, to congratulate UCLan on its 190th anniversary and on the number of African lives they have transformed by providing good quality education for us to in turn develop our continent. As a Ghanaian I wish to say Ayekoo.”
The UCLan African Symposium included more than 50 guests, including graduates from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe. During the three-day conference, visitors met with University representatives and took part in a variety of discussions including improving public health in the UK and Nigeria, engineering a fire safe Africa and the challenges facing African journalism.
Tim Steele, Executive Director for International Strategy and Partnerships, added: “Africa will account for more than 40% of the world population by 2030, of which more than 60% are below the age of 25. This provides us with a unique opportunity to help support the development of post-secondary education throughout Africa.
“UCLan will continue to forge links to increase the number of our degree programmes delivered within Africa, to build on the outstanding student experiences we provide to our UK based students to visit, to work on join research programmes and to provide more opportunities for African students to come to Preston to undertake their studies. This work builds on the strong links we have established through the work of our academic and student community and through our academic teaching hub in Mauritius.”