Learn more about the Excell Programme



What we will do through the Excell pilot


A unique programme


The pilot of AREF’s Excell researcher and leadership development programme will

  • Help accelerate the development of organisational and individual excellence and leadership in research (Figure 1)
  • Enable acquisition by 20 African global health researchers of the knowledge, skills and behaviours essential for healthy careers and leadership roles
  • Support their home institutions in Africa as they seek to strengthen their research capacity through systematically developing their emerging research talent
  • Enable participating institutions and individuals to develop research strategies, win research funding and, over time, increase their research income, activity, reputation and impact
  • Promote researcher engagement with research-users, leading to more effective translation of research outputs into policy, products and practice
  • Deploy a unique package of learning and development resources, developed by AREF and also drawing on other successful initiatives.
  • Inform the shape and scope of a lasting researcher and leadership programme for Africa.

Challenges and outcomes


In evaluating outcomes of the pilot, we shall look for early evidence of application of knowledge and skills, such as development and implementation by institutions of researcher development strategies; and submission by individuals of grant applications.

Longer term impact can be demonstrated later from improved success in winning grants, increased research income, greater research activity, enhanced reputation and influence, and uptakes of research outputs by policy-makers, business and practitioners.

Ultimately, our aim is that Excell alumni go on to improve health and save lives.



Excell programme strategy

1 Select and engage to maximise benefit Select research institutions and individuals competitively that demonstrate potential for excellence, unmet need and commitment.
2 Deploy best-practice Base the curriculum on the UK’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF ); deploy our own expertise and collaborate with other high-quality initiatives.
3 Promote sustainable learning through experiential activities Deliver the programme through practical, experiential activities, with face-to-face contact with experts familiar with African settings, backed by tested on-line resources, e.g. TED talks, and Academy of Medical Sciences, Vitae and Association of Commonwealth Universities‘ materials.
4 Leverage the power of peer support Promote (a) sustained peer-support within the Excell cohort, and (b) participation in complementary networks (e.g. Next Einstein Forum, African Women in Science & Engineering).
5 Enable strong relationshipsEvaluate, reflect and inform Promote confident, well-balanced relationships (mentorship, research collaborations, policy engagement).
6 Evaluate, reflect and inform Evaluate participating organisations and individuals before and after, through survey and interview, based on established evaluative frameworks (e.g. Vitae; Kirkpatrick). Use evaluation to inform the development of Excell Mark 2.


Programme implementation

  1. Selection of partner institutions and individual participants.
  2. Launch conference, to engage the participating institutions and individuals, and also research users.
  3. On-line “learning centre” of learning resources to support curriculum delivery.
  4. Three workshops: Each interactive, practice-focused and experiential – delivering the programme’s six learning themes. Typically, workshops will run for 4 or 4.5 days with an additional research day through which the hosting-partner showcases their research, researcher development and research translation.
  5. Webinar series: 10+ interactive webinars with a variety of formats and objectives: (i) Inspirational seminars, focused on leadership and research-user engagement; utilising e.g. TED Talks, invited research leaders and research-users; (ii) tutorials delivering course content; and (iii) programme feedback and problem solving surgeries.
  6. Small “Seed Awards”: Two to be awarded at the closing conference, judged by a Panel that will include leading researchers and research users. The objective is to promote interdisciplinary and international collaboration and to put competitive project and proposal development skills into practice.
  7. Concluding conference focused on (i) sustainability of the programme benefits; and (ii) promoting research translation with impact.
  8. Evaluation: The immediate post-pilot evaluation will assess the contribution of the programme components (contents and formats) to the immediate outcomes (learning and plans), and the likelihood of downstream action and impact. The evaluation will inform how AREF seeks to reshape/refine and re-finance Excell, perhaps as a two-yearly blended-learning programme with other partners.

To participate in Excell please follow these instructions on how to apply.

To support the medical researchers, please visit our Support us section.