In 2021, Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF), in coordination with the Institute of International Education (IIE), has established the Albanian Diaspora Fellowship Program called Research Expertise from the Academic Diaspora (READ) Program. READ is a 7-year project that will connect Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Albania with the Albanian scientific diaspora and their respective academic institutions. The program is built on AADF’s strategic priorities in education, especially in the higher education system. As diaspora engagement initiatives have been sporadic, AADF will play a leading role in establishing a well-structured path for channeling contributions of the scientific diaspora in ways beneficial to the Albanian HEIs. The READ Fellowship Program will benefit from the existing networks of AADF and other initiatives in higher education such as CleanScore, Center for School Leadership, and Junior Achievement of Albania.
This program offers a unique opportunity to address the untapped potential of the Albanian intellectual diaspora in ways that would enhance capacities and bring about structural changes in the Albanian higher education system. The READ Fellowship Program will address this gap by setting up a catalytic model for Fellows and Albanian HEI alike to benefit from creative collaborations. On the one hand, READ will allow diaspora scholars to make a meaningful contribution to Albania. On the other hand, the program will strengthen the capacities of Albanian HEIs by making full use of the valuable skills and experiences of the diaspora.
The READ Fellowship Program provides a formalized and structured fellowship program through which the Albanian academic diaspora can contribute to the development of HEIs in Albania and the overall development of scientific research in the country. READ will offer short-term fellowships (from one to six months) to highly qualified diaspora scholars (Albanian-born and second-generation Albanian) in OECD countries to pursue capacity-building collaborative research projects at Albanian HEIs. The Fellowship will contribute to Albania’s research output and will connect Albanian academic institutions with peers abroad. It will also help Albanian researchers access research grants from different donors by training them in grant application and project design skills.
The program is designed on the successful model of diaspora fellowships implemented and administered in collaboration with Institute of International Education (IIE). READ supports Albanian collaboration among Albanian HEIs and diaspora scholars through four main activities: collaborative research, joint supervision of PhDs, curricula and course development, and co-teaching.
The three key program objectives are: Sustainability—sustainable collaborations between diaspora scholars and Albanian HEIs while fostering the opportunity for new collaborations and increasing access to research funding; Institutional Capacity Building—educational projects in collaborative research, curriculum offerings, graduate programming, and PhD mentoring; Community Engagement—knowledge production, international collaborative networks, and increased visibility and engagement with Albanian HEIs.
To enable institutions to seamlessly launch, implement, and scale collaborative activities with diaspora scholars, the framework of the diaspora fellowship programs includes the following key elements:
- An Advisory Council comprised of thought leaders from the Albanian diaspora and researchers from HEIs in Albania will select priority fields of academic scholarship aligned with national interests and demands in human capacity development.
- Universities identify their needs for new curriculum and research in priority academic fields and propose projects for international academic collaboration.
- Scholars from the diaspora express interest and are matched with projects based on expertise and mutual interest.
- Selected scholars carry out short-term fellowships at the universities to complete the projects and co-teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.
- Scholars and universities participate in alumni engagement activities and convenings to enhance the fellowship experience for future cohorts, contribute to the program’s sustainability, and continually identify areas for collaboration.