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UCL African Studies Research Centre

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View across the Market Place in Bamako, Mali (Photo credit: UCL)

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‘Thinking about Africa differently’

Despite the procession of grim media imagery, 21st Century Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic growth and emerging as a hub for telecommunications, renewable energy, artistic creativity and a host of other innovations. At UCL we aim to promote a holistic vision of Africa guided by innovation, interdisciplinarity, collaboration and the co-production of knowledge. With career specific pathways in Environment, Health and Heritage (plus Education from 2017), our unique master’s degrees exemplify this fresh approach. 

The UCL African Studies Research Centre (ASRC) was established in 2015 as a new focus for Africanist research and engagement across the university. The ASRC sits within UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), while our degrees for part of the Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Enquiry (CMII). With over 35 academics, UCL has one of the largest communities of full-time, permanent Africanist researchers in the UK. Our expertise extends across the continent and a wide range of disciplines, with particular focus on anthropology, archaeology, geography, global health, development planning, history and education. This breadth is exemplified by our wide-ranging steering committee, who participate in our teaching and planning, and by our vibrant programme of events and seminars. Some of these events are convened jointly with the Royal African Society and other partners.

We leverage this research expertise in the development of research links with African institutions, with a view to enabling the next generation of Africanist scholars, media people, policy makers and leaders in various fields. We aim to transcend narrow disciplinary boundaries and produce research and teaching that address the complex realities, potentialities and challenges of contemporary Africa. We further recognise the deep social and intellectual inequalities that have often existed in the study of Africa. We are committed to bridging these through truly collaborative partnerships with African scholars and institutions. 

Our Vision for Research: World-class collaborations

We recognize the structural imbalances that have often existed between researchers in the Global North and Global South. We are committed to breaking down these inequalities through fully collaborative world-leading research. We aim to partner with scholars and institutions on the continent to develop novel research programmes driven by jointly developed agenda with contemporary relevance. As we move beyond the Millennium Development Goals and towards the more holistic Sustainable Development Goals, we emphasise the need to work in close partnership with African leaders and institutions to develop responses to global challenges. For more information, please visit our research pages.

Our Vision for Teaching: Building expertise for Africa’s future

Our vision for teaching is informed by the need to produce thinkers attuned to the complex history of Africa, its myriad cultural values and forms of knowledge, and its future potentialities. We have a commitment to approaching Africa and African Studies with a fresh perspective. Unlike traditional African Studies Programmes, we integrate perspectives from the humanities and the social & natural sciences to train students to think beyond disciplinary boundaries, and to direct their energies toward complex contemporary issues. We balance this breadth with subject-specific expertise by offering unique, career-oriented graduate pathways in Environment, Health and Heritage (plus Education from 2017). 

Our MPhil/PhD programme offers a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to undertake advanced research on Africa. As a doctoral student at the ASRC, you will be able to tap into the research atmosphere of the Institute of Advanced Studies and UCL’s wide range of disciplinary training programmes and expertise without being bound by narrow disciplinary limitations. 

We aim to offer our students opportunities to engage with research in Africa and to network with our African partners. We will foster a body of graduates (drawn from the continent and more widely), who are adept at intercultural dialogue, able to work across the permeable boundaries of the globalized world, and well-equipped to critically assess Africa's past and present condition. We expect our students to go on to careers in fields such as academia, policy-making, development, health, business and consulting, environmental management, museums and heritage, media, and applied research. For more information, please visit our prospective students pages.

Why African Studies at UCL?

  • Explore African history, politics, development, anthropology and the diaspora through comprehensive core modules
  • Guided by expert supervisors, benefit from our unique interdisciplinary approach and continent-wide expertise
  • With over thirty-five world-leading Africanist researchers you will learn from and contribute to one of the UK's largest and most diverse academic communities 
  • Choose from specific career-focused pathways and customizable option modules drawn from, amongst others, Global Health, the Development Planning Unit, Geography, Anthropology, and Archaeology
  • Engage in extra-curricular seminars, public events, social media communities and research opportunities 
  • Benefit from living and working at a Global Top-Ten University in the heart of international London. Make use of the city's unparalleled intellectual resources (e.g. the British Museum, British Library) and develop life-long networks with like-minded peers committed to Africa and its diaspora

Meet our students for more information