A University of Westminster delegation from the Faculty of Science and Technology visited the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit in The Gambia to enhance collaboration between the two institutions, by extending the placement opportunities for Westminster undergraduate students in the Unit and exploring the possibility of signing a Memorandum of Understanding.

The MRC Unit in The Gambia is the UK's single largest investment in medical research in a developing country. The Unit's research focuses on infectious diseases of immediate concern to The Gambia and the continent of Africa, with the aim of reducing the burden of illness and death in the country and the developing world as a whole.

Head of Department of Biomedical Sciences Dr John Murphy, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences Dr Polly Hayes, and Lecturer in Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Applied Biology Dr Saki Raheem spent a day at the MRC’s Fajara site, meeting with the Head of Training, Director of Operations and Head of Research support to discuss future collaboration. Later the Westminster academics went on a guided tour of the excellent research and clinical laboratory facilities and residential units, and then met past and present Westminster Biomedical Science Foundation degree and Biomedical Science BSc Honours students currently undertaking placement or working in the Unit.

Dr John Murphy said: “The training collaboration agreement between the University of Westminster and MRC Gambia represents an important North-South capacity building collaboration in science and research. We are thrilled to be able to provide our students with practical training in the field, which can enhance their learning experience as well as improve their employability upon finishing the course.”

Three current second year Foundation degree students, Bubacarr Jb Touray, Alpha Omar A Jallow and Francis John Kanu, were presented with certificates for their research work as part of a students as co-creators project looking at the extent to which exposure to learning technologies before online studies determines students’ performance. Students as co-creators projects involve students working with an academic partner to research ways of improving the student experience at the University of Westminster. Their distance-learning experience at the MRC Unit in The Gambia inspired the project and they teamed up with Senior Lecturer Chrystalla Ferrier for this collaborative student-led research project. 

Strengthened collaboration between the University of Westminster and the MRC Unit means that two current Level 5 Westminster Biomedical Science students will be undertaking eight week placements at the Unit over this summer, and there will be an opportunity for up to four more students to do 10-month project placements which will be advertised soon. Potential for joint research activities, staff exchange and mutual visits to both institutions was also discussed.

Before heading back to the UK there was also just enough time for a quick visit to two of The Gambia’s local attractions, the Kachikally Crocodile Museum and Pool (stroking Charlie the Crocodile is not recommended!) and the lovely Botanical Gardens. 

Internationalisation is central to the University’s strategic vision and identity. We have extensive connections with universities and industries throughout the world and our global engagement strategy seeks to strengthen and deepen those connections ever further. Our international partnerships support the development of our academic and research portfolios. Experiences that enable our staff and students to operate in an increasingly interconnected, internationalised world are key to our approach.

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