Author: Robin Marsh
There have been scant studies initiated by global universities to follow-up on the career and life trajectories of their international alumni. While such studies are regularly conducted for domestic graduates, and provide an important basis for recruitment and private or government support, campuses typically lack the institutional research support or mandate to conduct such systematic studies about international graduates. Current research on African graduates from the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and partner universities, indicates widespread and enduring social contributions by alumni, and counterfactual evidence of ‘brain drain’. As universities, such as UC Berkeley, aspire to become ever more global in their reach and impact, there is an increased rationale for investing in retrospective tracer studies of international alumni, particularly from developing regions of the world.
In 2012, UC Berkeley received a large grant from The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program (MCFSP) to fund comprehensive scholarships for high -achieving, low -income youths from sub-Saharan Africa at undergraduate (70) and Masters levels (43). The grant (2012-2020) was a major game changer for Berkeley, as a public university it has historically lacked funds to finance eligible students from Africa, particularly at undergraduate level. The MCFSP elected to work with Berkeley (one of only six US universities receiving grants), due in part to its tradition of imparting social and civic values to students, in addition to providing a high quality education. This meshed well with the Foundation’s ‘theory of change’, which supports investment in individuals and cohorts of scholars who are expected to lead positive transformative change in the institutions and communities of their countries of origin (COO).
Analysing the ‘theory of change’ and its premise that African graduates of international universities will return home as agents of change, if appropriate recruitment and selection strategies are used and a suite of on and off campus support is provided, it became clear that a historical examination of social engagement and return behaviours of past African Berkeley graduates would be useful to confirm or broaden these expectations ….