Published: 04-02-2015 07:08 | Updated: 08-02-2015 19:08

Mutual benefit from partnership between KI and Makerere University

For low-income countries it is necessary to improve national research quality and capacity, and one way of doing this is through partnership with universities in high-income countries. However, the benefit of this kind of academic collaboration is mutual, according to the authors of a recent article in PLOS Medicine, in which they present the long-term partnership between Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University in Uganda.

The collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University started in 2001 and includes amongst other things the possibility for students to receive a novel joint PhD degree from both universities. To date, 28 such joint degrees have been awarded. In all, the partnership has resulted in 44 graduated PhD students, of which 11 were from Sweden and 33 from Uganda, and over 500 peer-reviewed articles have been published in scientific journals.

“The program makes it possible for PhD students to spend most of their time at the home university, travelling abroad not more than two or three months per year”, said Stefan Peterson, Professor of Global Health and one of the authors behind the study. “This has been beneficial to students with young children, and has served to minimize so called brain drain from Uganda. All Ugandan PhD graduates have remained in the country and thirteen of them have embarked on postdoc training.”

Ugandan health system priorities

This collaboration effort was enabled by core support from the Swedish Sida, and has mainly addressed Ugandan health system priorities. It has resulted in policy and practice reforms concerning improved mother and child health care in Uganda, also benefitting other African countries by means of WHO and UNICEF policy changes.

“The research projects have focused on everything from mental health to Malaria”, said Stefan Peterson. “We are just starting a new study on diabetes and health systems, where the Swedish health system will learn from the Ugandan how to use community resources and expert patients to change lifestyles, rather than going to your GP.”

According to Stefan Peterson, Sweden has a unique possibility through joint PhDs to contribute to a sustainable global development by supporting PhD education focusing on local problem issues in low-income countries and global health issues. This will also to benefit Sweden:

“The world is one, and Swedish students, lecturers and scientist have a lot to learn”, said Stefan Peterson. “Not only Sida and the Swedish Foreign Ministry can benefit, but the Ministry of Higher Education as well, and should fund these kind of efforts. “


Enabling Dynamic Partnerships through Joint Degrees between Low- and High-Income Countries for Capacity Development in Global Health Research: Experience from the Karolinska Institutet/Makerere University Partnership
Nelson Sewankambo, James K. Tumwine, Göran Tomson, Celestino Obua, Freddie Bwanga, Peter Waiswa, Elly Katabira, Hannah Akuffo, Kristina Persson, Stefan Peterson
PLOS Medicine, online 3 February 2015, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001784