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Collaboration with Universities: a Synthesis of Reports from Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda Commissioned by APREPREN/SIDA


Emma Crewe



AFREPREN and SIDA have decided to extend their sponsorship of postgraduate energy policy students, currently restricted to the Energy and Development Masters Course offered in South Africa, to other universities. In 2004 AFREPREN commissioned missions in the Universities of Botswana (Botswana), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Dar-Es-Salam (Tanzania), and Makerere (Uganda), and asked two researchers to make recommendations about:

  1. The viability of launching Energy Policy Masters Courses;

  2. The feasibility of establishing a University Chair to examine energy issues;

  3. How AFREPREN can establish closer collaborative links with those universities;

The researchers consulted university, government and SADC officials about existing courses, the likely demand for a new course, the most appropriate institutional home and course content, the potential role of a Chair, and other possibilities for collaboration between the universities and AFREPREN. 


The interest in, and need for, a post-graduate master course in Energy Policy was clearly identified in all the four universities. No existing course at any of the universities, or any other SADC teaching institution, adequately covers issues of energy policy except for South African course. Candidates from government, research institutes, private and non-governmental organizations would be expected to apply. 

It is suggested that the main purpose of an energy policy graduate programme would be to develop regional capacity to research, design and manage energy programmes that contribute more effectively to sustainable development and poverty reduction. To achieve its goals – particularly that of scaling up the impact of energy programmes on poverty reduction – a multi-disciplinary course will be essential.  

The universities were consulted about various options for the most appropriate departmental home for the course. It could be: – 

Option: 1. Housed within one department using inputs from other faculties.

option: 2. A university-wide programme jointly managed by different departments, possibly with a Committee to oversee it.

option: 3. Run by a new Centre of Energy Studies. 

No one department has all the knowledge and skills for such a multi-disciplinary course. Although faculties of technology and/or engineering often expressed interest in managing such a programme, this would tend to marginalise social and policy issues and could exclude non-technical students. Some expressed the view that a social science or economics department would be preferable. A university-wide programme, with a Chair in Energy to act as Chair of a committee, may be an even better way to ensure that inclusive admission and multi-disciplinarity are assured.  

Informants’ ideas about what should be included in the new course were wide-ranging, often reaching far beyond policy to include technology solutions and macro economic issues. Demand for biomass energy – the most important source in the region for the foreseeable future – was downplayed. Similarly, no mention of gender was made by any informants despite the obvious and well-known links between women, energy problems and poverty. Considerable further discussion will be required within each university to determine course content once the institutional home has been chosen in each case. A flexible approach, with a modular systems and part-time study, were considered desirable. 

Some positive responses to the idea of a Chair in Energy were voiced. A Chair could: (1) ensure that the course was multidisciplinary, set within a development context, and incorporated a gender perspective, (2) provide intellectual leadership, in part by increasing the understanding the links between energy, gender, and poverty, (3) contribute to the better use of existing research, (4) carry out and guide cutting edge, multi-disciplinary energy policy research, and (5) raise funds for energy policy research and teaching. However, the proposal of a Chair is not entirely straightforward: the approval process can be lengthy, a mechanism for financial sustainability would be required, and the idea of a Chair would have to be assessed alongside other options.  

No interest in diploma courses was expressed by any of the universities. A range of other suggestions were made about how AFREPREN and the universities might collaborate. AFREPREN could fund research, staff development, a doctoral programme, or a prize for students. Joint dissemination of research findings and advocacy were also suggested. 


  1. New energy policy courses should be launched in all the four universities. The goal of such a multidisciplinary course should be agreed with participating departments.

  2. Lessons could be more fully learnt from the Energy and Development Masters couse offered at the University of Cape Town.

  3. The most appropriate institutional home for the new course may be different in each university. If various solutions are adopted, and the four courses develop in different ways, then they will collectively offer greater choice to students in the region.

Course development is at an early stage. Greater consultation about framing the course, and the detail of its modules, will be needed. But several general principles emerged out of the missions. The course needs:

a) An overall conceptual framework that emphasises the role of energy initiatives in reducing poverty, mainstreams gender into policy analysis, and promotes sustainable development;

b) Multi-disciplinarity, a balance of theory and practice, both taught modules and supervised student research;

c) An ‘evidence-based’ approach to policy and extensive use of AFREPREN research outputs, including its substantial literature on engendering energy policy.

5. Flexibility may be achieved by a modular system and part-time study.

6. The idea of a diploma course should be deferred.

7. The proposal for a dedicated Chair in Energy requires further investigation.

8. A range of practical issues need further consideration before the efficiency and sustainability of an AFREPREN/SIDA sponsored programme can be assured.

9. AFREPREN could consider the various additional proposals for collaboration including: funding faculty research and skills development; disseminating research results; and joint advocacy and knowledge dissemination.

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