Overview of the project

Project leader: Anja Schroeder, anja@hartrao.ac.za
Project location: South Africa and Africa in general through distance learning

Project description:
This is a pilot project to support students all over Africa who want to study Astronomy but where the university in their home country does not offer astronomy courses.

Most universities offer a standard BSc degree in physics, but well-taught astronomy courses are difficult to find in Africa due to the lack of a larger astronomy community. However, in the event of the SKA coming to South Africa and a few other African countries as well as the African VLBI Network (AVN) which has been initiated by the SKASA project office and which involves a number of African countries, it is important to offer the possibility of a degree in Astronomy to all African students. Members of the East African Astronomical Society in particular are keen to expose more students to astronomy during their university studies.

African students could obtain a bursary and go to a university abroad to study astronomy, but it would be much more cost-effective and flexible to a person’s circumstances if the student could stay at a university in their home country, attend all the physics and mathematics courses required, and register for the required astronomy courses at a university that offers distance learning.

The University of South Africa, UNISA, is such a university. There is a precedence case, a collaboration with the University of Free State (UFS) whereby any undergrad modules in astronomy passed through UNISA are counted as electives towards the student’s BSc degree at UFS. In other words, the students will be full students registered at a university in their home country and only register for the astronomy modules at UNISA.

The university fees at UNISA are reasonably cheap for South African standards, but even these fees are often too high for other African countries. We therefore propose to support a number of students to pay for the UNISA fees for the astronomy modules which, if recognised by the host university, will count as modules towards a BSc degree.

About the project leader:
Dr. Anja Schroeder is Honorary Research Associate and SALT Comissioner at the South African Astronomical Observatory.