The AREF-MRC Towards Leadership Programme

30 Jun 2022

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Towards Leadership Programme in partnership with the UKRI Medical Research Council (MRC).


The aim of the Towards Leadership Programme is to empower talented, emerging scientists in Africa to compete successfully for UKRI MRC and other major funding opportunities in global health research.

The programme is directed towards to winning grant funding, empowering effective teams, collaborating internationally, influencing stakeholders and building rewarding research careers.

Together, we are investing in talented African scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa, enhancing their global health research and leadership potential.

Programme outline

The programme will run between October 2022 – October 2023, consisting of two residential workshops and one virtual workshop.

The Programme comprises of the following elements:

  • Three inspiring and practical blended workshops at six-monthly intervals
  • Supplementary webinars, tutorials and online 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:

  1. The researcher as a leader: focusing on learning and leading in a complex world; raising the cohort’s self-awareness and mindfulness while also building their coaching, influencing, and leadership capabilities.
  2. The effective researcher: developing the individual’s ability to envision, plan and action career goals and developmental trajectory through personal development planning, time management, and mentorship.
  3. The researcher as a communicator: augmenting the individual’s leadership, authorship and authority skills through the use of effective presentations, storytelling and messaging while refining their engagement with research users.
  4. 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.
  5. The researcher as a manager: building a great team; effective collaboration; implementation planning; working with Research Support and Finance departments; managing a budget and intellectual property

The five themes will be integrated across the three workshops. The balance of the curriculum will be determined by the participants’ needs.

The costs of the workshops and associated by accommodation and travel of selected nominees will be met by The MRC and AREF.

Key events

The timetable for all Towards Leadership participants is as follows:

• Opening Workshop (residential) - planned for 2 to 4 November 2022.
• Workshop 2 (virtual) - planned for 13 to 17 March 2023.
• Closing Workshop (residential) - planned for October 2023.

Joining the Programme

Entry to the Towards Leadership is through an application process that will be rigorously and fairly reviewed to select the best candidates for the programme.

Global Health Remit

AREF and The MRC are keen to recruit talented researchers from a diverse range of biomedical, clinical and health related disciplines. If you are unsure of whether your research falls within this remit, please email AREF [at] aref-Africa [dot] org [dot] uk.


AREF will ensure the selection of a balanced cohort of men and women to the programme.


  • You are a citizen of a country in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • You are currently employed in Sub-Saharan 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.)


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 project 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 Programme.

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.

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: 30 June 2022 00:00 BST

Successful applicants notified: W/C 25 July 2022


To apply for the Programme, please click here to download the application form and return it to aref [at] aref-africa [dot] org [dot] uk by the deadline.

For general questions about the programme you are welcome to contact us at aref [at] aref-africa [dot] org [dot] uk