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Over the years there have been many initiatives that have aimed to strengthen research and teaching in African higher education (HE). I’ve been following these, and involved in some of them, over the last decade or so. Some have been very successful – producing important new scholarship and networks, equipping individual researchers and teachers with skills and confidence, and fostering stronger institutions – some less so. Many have nevertheless seemed to create islands of improved quality in particular departments or centres, but have struggled to achieve deeper and more systemic change, change that travels beyond a single part of an institution and has the potential to be scaled.
This paper reflects on some of the pitfalls that partnerships often face and reflect on some of the ingredients for successful partnership that we have seen in the first year of the Transforming Employability for Social Change in East Africa (TESCEA) partnership, which is fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills in undergraduates in East Africa.