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RCUK signs collaborative agreement with South Africa’s National Research Foundation

Hands on a globeResearch Councils UK are delighted to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between RCUK and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.

It is the first time that Research Councils UK and the NRF have come to such an agreement and the signing of the MoU, as part of the UK –South Africa Newton Fund, presents a great opportunity to boost collaborative research to the benefit of both nations. The first strand of activity under the MOU is the launching today of a joint PhD Partnering Scheme. The Scheme aims to build sustainable, long-lasting links between UK and South African higher education institutions and research councils to support the training of PhD students and the development of an international cohort of early career researchers with the skills, links and contacts to operate in the global research environment.

Professor Jane Elliott, RCUK International Champion, said: “The MoU between RCUK and the NRF offers an exciting opportunity for both nations. At RCUK we firmly believe that international collaborations and partnerships are vital to the future of world-leading research and we look forward to working alongside our colleagues in South Africa, sharing knowledge and expertise, to develop the next generation of researchers and produce the best possible research.”

RCUK look forward to working closely with the NRF to foster an international cohort of early career researchers and to support the development of the UK and South African research capacity. We will be exchanging knowledge and best practice as well as supporting the development of intellectual and joint training networks to aid long-term sustainable research collaboration.

The PhD Partnering scheme, which launches today and is supported by the Newton Fund, has funding available for approximately 12 PhD International PhD Partnering Awards. The awards will provide funding for approximately ten placements of up to six months for PhD students from each nation.

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Further information

Nicholas Turner
Press and Communications Manager
Tel: 01793 444592 or email: Nicholas Turner

Notes to editors

  1. This call is being run by ESRC on behalf of all seven UK Research Councils. UK applicants should go to for further information. South African Researchers can also visit the NRF website for more information

  2. The PhD International PhD Partnering Awards will be funded through the Newton Fund. This is a £375 million fund (£75 million a year for five years) which, through science and innovation partnerships aims to promote the economic development and welfare of poor people in developing countries. The Fund is overseen by the Department for Businesses Innovation and Skills (BIS) and delivered through 15 delivery partners in collaboration with 15 partnering countries. More at:

  3. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including Innovate UK, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations.

    The seven UK Research Councils are:

    • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
    • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
    • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
    • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
    • Medical Research Council (MRC);
    • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
    • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).


  4. The National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa was established as an independent government agency, through the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998). The mandate of the NRF is to promote and support research through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary research facilities in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge, and thereby contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of all South Africans.

    The NRF therefore aims to develop institutional research capabilities in parallel with the appropriate human capital to drive the research and development strategies within the National System of Innovation (NSI). The NRF manages a number of student and graduate support programmes. Efforts are made to ensure that Honours, Master’s and Doctoral students and Postdoctoral research fellows extend their learning and research training. With the introduction of the PhD project, the NRF plans to build a critical mass of highly educated and skilled South Africans who can contribute to the country's economic growth and global competitiveness. To this end, the Student and Postdoctoral Support programme manages the implementation of strategic projects, bursaries, scholarships and fellowships with the aim of developing and increasing skilled human resources in scarce skills areas, in line with the NRF Vision 2015. This partnership, therefore, is in line with the NRF’s mandate and commitment of supporting the training of PhD students and the development of an international cohort of early career researchers with the skills, links and contacts to operate in the global research environment.

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