Top Irish Universities and NGOs Awarded $900,000 in bid to tackle Challenges in Global Sustainable Development

Posted on: 01 July 2009

Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, in partnership with the University of Rwanda, Trócaire, the Ethical Globalisation Initiative, and Kimmage Development Centre, have been awarded $900,000 (€640,000) by the MacArthur Foundation, one of the largest independent foundations in the United States, to establish Ireland as the European Hub for the provision of Development Practice Education and Training.

The award is part of an $8 million worldwide initiative by the MacArthur Foundation to tackle the challenges in global sustainable development. The joint Irish entry was selected from more than 70 proposals worldwide.

The award will be used to create a joint UCD-TCD Masters Degree in Development Practice which will train the next generation of development experts and provide them with the knowledge and skills required to tackle the challenges of global poverty and environmental sustainability.

According to the United Nations, 1.4 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty today (<$1.25 per day).  As governments across the world grapple with the financial meltdown resulting from the current global economic crisis, global assistance to development has reduced by at least $4.5 billion annually having an enormous impact on the poorest in the world.

Recently commenting on the cut in the Irish Government’s overseas aid, former President of Ireland and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, whose Ethical Globalisation Initiative is one of the partners in the Irish programme, expressed her concern stating that the cuts were “proportionally more severe than in any other European country”. She also noted at the time that Ireland had “a deserved reputation” in the area, and she urged the Government to investigate “more innovative, high-tech ways” of helping developing countries.

“The $900,000 award by the MacArthur Foundation to University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin is a testament to the fact that Ireland has the best government agency (Irish Aid), NGOs and academics in Europe in the development area,” says Professor Paul Walsh, an expert in International Development Studies at UCD and chair of the new initiative. “Being chosen to receive this award allows Ireland to play a critical role in training the next generation of development practitioners in a global classroom.”

“This new programme bridges the natural, health and social sciences and management, combining classroom study with field training experiences in Africa, and will enable Ireland to provide development practitioners of the future with the tools they need to address the root causes of extreme poverty, while preserving the environment for future generations,” said Professor David Taylor, Professor of Geography at TCD. Dr Pádraig Carmody, also of TCD and the academic co-ordinator of the new initiative added: “The success of the bid was underwritten by the vision of Irish Aid in creating a programme of strategic cooperation with Irish colleges in the area over the last few years.”

“Through our work around the globe, we at MacArthur understand that poverty, population, health, conservation, and human rights are all interconnected, requiring sustained and comprehensive interventions,” says MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton. “These new programmes are a model for training the next generation of these critically needed professionals.”

Up to 40 students are expected to enroll on the Irish programme when it first begins in 2010. By 2012, a total of 250 highly skilled graduates are expected to emerge from the Masters Degree in Development Practice provided by the 10 universities from around the world who received the awards from the MacArthur Foundation.

In March 2009 UCD and TCD announced the formation of an Innovation Alliance which facilitates closer collaboration between the two universities.  Part of this alliance is the creation of the Innovation Academy which focuses on graduate training and education, facilitates student mobility between campuses and maximises access to the breadth and depth of expertise and resources in the two universities. 

The joint UCD-TCD Masters Degree in Development Practice draws on academic strengths of the two universities across agriculture and sustainable development, climate change, human rights and human ecology, economic policy, management and global health. The Masters Degree represents an innovative, inter-disciplinary programme that will become a model for other institutes of higher learning.

Notes to Editors:

The following nine universities also received MacArthur Foundation awards to develop and deliver the Masters in Development Practice: Columbia University, New York; Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; The Energy Resources Institute University, New Delhi, India; James Cook University, Cairns and Townsville, Australia; Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; University of Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal; University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana; University of Florida, US; University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Successful applications were selected on the basis of numerous criteria including support from top university leadership, excellent infrastructure and academic programs, the ability to serve as a regional hub, geographic representation among students, exceptional academic faculty, and a timeline and business plan for financial sustainability when funding ends in three years.

There was widespread global interest in establishing the programs, and the quality and diversity of the proposals indicate strong interest in expanding inter-disciplinary development studies around the world. More than 70 universities in North America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America submitted proposals.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is changing children and society.

MacArthur is one of the largest independent foundations in the United States. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public. For more on the foundation see