From 22-24 May, Dr Lindie Koorts (University of the Free State) and Dr Matt Graham (University of Dundee) as part of their British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship Scheme, organised and ran a series of post-graduate skills training workshops for history students from across Southern Africa.

The event, hosted by the University of the Free State, was designed to draw together post-graduate students at various stages of their research in order to develop the capacity and networks of an emerging cohort of young academics, while contributing to knowledge transfer and skill development. The generous funding received from the British Academy has strengthened the framework for sustained collaboration between the Scottish Centre for Global History at Dundee and the International Studies Group at University of the Free State, which has been developing over the last five years, and has enabled such beneficial activities for graduate students.

In total, 26 participants from five major South African universities (as well as from institutions in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia) converged on Bloemfontein for the inaugural set of collaborative workshops which focused on key academic skill sets including academic publishing, teaching in higher education, archival ethics, and public history. The event enabled unique networking opportunities for these students, and facilitated the sharing of ideas and co-operative learning experiences to enhance and develop their academic skills. The feedback from the participants and their respective institutions has been extremely positive. Indicative responses include:

“I would just like to say thank you for having given me the opportunity to be at such a wonderful and informative workshop. It has given me so much extra knowledge and networking connections in order to help me grow as a historian, and as a potential writer; the skills that were addressed and expanded upon during the workshop have given me many new options to take back to my institution and hopefully implement at a later stage.”

“Thanks so much for organizing such a highly interactive workshop, and importantly for inviting me to participate. I really benefited from the experiences we shared and the entire workshop opened for me a new world of possibilities as a historian.”

“Thank you for facilitating an awesome history postgraduate workshop. I really learned lot about oral history and approaching the archives, most of which I had limited knowledge about, especially the ethical considerations of oral history. My absolute favourite session was on teaching, because the discussions were very useful and I got some important tips on what to do and not what to do in teaching history and how to approach the subject area… the workshops were great, and very necessary for us emerging academic historians.”

This feedback underlines the importance of the workshop initiative, and the enormous benefits these opportunities provide for the academic development of post-graduate students from Southern Africa.