Call for Applications: AREF-MRC Towards Leadership Programme 2023/24

The AREF Towards Leadership project aims to develop bright African rising scientists into outstanding leaders in the global health research ecosystem. We are investing in talented African scientists in Africa to help them advance their global health research and leadership potential.

The program will run from October 2023 to October 2024 and will include two residential workshops (opening and closing) and one virtual session.

The curriculum is intended to engage and strengthen the participants’ personal capacities, as well as to empower talented, emerging African scientists to compete successfully on a level playing field for UKRI MRC and other significant funding opportunities in global health research. The program aims to acquire grant funding, develop effective teams, collaborate worldwide, influence stakeholders, and build meaningful relationships.

Programme outline

The Programme comprises the following elements:

  • Three inspiring and practical blended workshops at six-monthly intervals
  • Supplementary webinars, tutorials and on-line resources
  • Baseline and end-of-programme assessments and evaluation
  • Collaboration between participating individuals

The Programme has the following themes tailored to meet the needs of each cohort:

  • The Researcher As Leader focusing on learning & leading in a complex world; raising the cohorts self-awareness, mindfulness while also building their coaching, influence, and leadership capabilities.
  • The Effective Researcher developing the individual’s ability to envision, plan and action career goals and development trajectory through personal development planning, time management, and mentorship
  • The Researcher As Communicator augmenting the individual’s leadership, authorship & authority skills through the use of effective presentations, storytelling and messaging while refining their engagement with research users.
  • The Compelling Applicant Understanding funders. Proposal development and writing skills: from formulating a research question; justifying the design / strategy; concept notes and full proposals.  Data sharing. Understanding peer review.  Fellowship interviews.
  • The Researcher As Manager Building a great team. Effective collaboration. Implementation planning.  Working with Research Support and Finance departments. Managing a budget.  Managing intellectual property.

The five themes will be intertwined across the three workshops. The curriculum’s balance will be decided by the demands of the individual participants.

The MRC and AREF will cover the costs of the workshops, as well as the associated lodging and airfare for selected nominees.


  • You are a citizen of a country in Africa
  • You are currently employed in Africa by a recognised university and/or specialist research institution.
  • You are an early career researcher, having completed your research education and are now at the early stages of leading your own research group.
  • You will hold a research doctorate (PhD/DPhil/MD) from a recognised academic institution OR you have a medical/clinical qualification PLUS a research-relevant Master’s degree, both usually within the last 10 years. If it has been longer than 10 years since your last degree, please explain in your application why you should still be considered an early career researcher (i.e. caring responsibilities or career break/change impacting your research career).
  • You are currently responsible for managing/supervising one or more research students and/or research staff members and are involved in building research collaborations.
  • You demonstrate evidence of being at the early stages of leading a research team or being an active member of a research team conducting Global Health research
  • A significant part of your current employee role is to develop and conduct health research.
  • You already have experience in obtaining research funding (Combined value of £500,000 or less).


  1. To be accepted to the Programme, you will need to demonstrate the potential to benefit yourself and your home institution. Therefore, in the application form you will need to provide a persuasive personal statement demonstrating:
  • Your current/most recent research programme and the potential for it to make an impact on health
  • A compelling career vision and how you plan to achieve it
  • Your potential as an emerging research leader to build a successful research group, influence your discipline and engage with impact or innovation outside of academia.
  • How you and your institution will benefit from participating in the AREF Towards Leadership
  1. Nominations must be accompanied by a supporting letter from an authorised senior representative of your employing institution, such as the director. They should
  • confirm your eligibility.
  • confirm they authorise you to participate in all three workshops – that you will not be withdrawn to fulfil teaching, administration or other obligations
  • Describe how they personally and the institution will recognise the benefits that participating in the programme brings – and how those benefits will be integrated into and sustained within the organisation.
  1. Nominees must be fully committed to participating in all three workshops of the Programme; partial attendance is NOT an option.

Key Dates

Applications closing deadline 16:00 GMT 12th May 2023

Successful applicants notified w/c 24th July 2023

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