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A delegation of Malawi academics has embarked on a two week fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland to see how the University of Ulster delivers “a professional education for a professional life.”

The delegation today met  Minister for Employment and Learning, Danny Kennedy, Dr Neale Blair from the University of Ulster and Shona McCarthy, Director of the British Council Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the meeting, Danny Kennedy said:  “Initiatives such as the Education Partnerships in Africa (NI) demonstrate how our Higher Education institutions can raise Northern Ireland’s profile and positively engage on the international scene.

“The success of the University of Ulster/Malawi programme in this unique venture provides tangible evidence of what can be achieved, across cultural and geographical borders, through commitment, planning and utilisation of expertise.

This initiative is clear evidence of my Department’s commitment to supporting global partnerships in higher education.

“Such partnerships will have a long term impact on developing professional skills, promoting cooperation, and creating employment opportunities in Northern Ireland and Malawi.”

The EPA (NI) scheme, funded by the Department for Employment and Learning and administered by the British Council, aims to build greater potential for entrepreneurship, social enterprise and enhance employability.

Dr Neale Blair, course director and lecturer in the Built Environment Research Institute at the University of Ulster, said: “EPA (NI) has highlighted the importance of embedding employment skills in urban and regional planning courses in Malawi, and the value of universities working closely with authorities such as the Malawi government and its Institute of Physical Planners, along with its local government and city councils.

“The EPA project has already helped to improve the curriculum at Mzuzu University and is informing the review of planning education at Blantyre Polytechnic-University of Malawi.”

Shona McCarthy, Director of the British Council Northern Ireland, said: “The British Council, as the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, is committed to supporting international educational partnerships in higher education.

“This project, based on the sharing of expertise and experience, is an excellent example of international collaboration at work.”

Professor Orton Msiska, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Mzuzu University, said:

“The demand for this development came from the government, so they can get the right people in the right places in planning, otherwise the current unplanned building will continue,” he said.

“This curriculum at University of Ulster provides a very good benchmark of review for us to see what is required in our project development. This is one of the other elements that attracted us to the partnership with the University.”


The delegation from Malawi consists of Mzuzu University Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Orton Msiska, Mr Mtafu Manda, lecturer, and Mr Bester Kacheche, Senior Lecturer, from Blantyre Polytechnic.

In 2009 the University of Ulster, University of Mzuzu and Malawi Polytechnic were awarded a partnership grant of £59,700 under the EPA (NI) project.

The main aim of the venture is to boost existing urban and regional planning degree programmes in Malawi, focusing on teaching content and learning methods which will lead to employment for graduates in this sector.

A further aim of EPA (NI) is to support Northern Ireland Higher Education institutions, in partnership with Sub Saharan African universities, deliver employment skills in collaboration with local employers and social enterprises.