Supporting emerging talent from across the world

Research into protecting vulnerable children from developing mental health problems and how enslaved Africans became imperial asylum seekers in the 19th century will receive a boost from expertise at the University of Leicester.

The University is to host two prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford Fellows. Dr Richard Anderson from Canada will be working with Professor Clare Anderson in the School of History, Politics and International Relations for two years beginning March 2018, while Dr Saima Aqeel from Pakistan will spend a year working with Professor Panos Vostanis in the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour.

The Fellowships seek to bring highly skilled researchers from other Commonwealth countries to spend one to two years in a UK institution conducting postdoctoral research. The aim of the programme is to support world-class research and innovation, and contribute to the UK’s research base by attracting high-calibre international candidates and encouraging links and collaboration. A total of 50 Commonwealth Rutherford Fellowships have been awarded across institutions in the UK.

The aim of Saima’s project is to understand the factors that protect vulnerable children, such as those living in orphanages and slum areas, from developing mental health problems. There is little knowledge on how the resilience, or the capacity to recover quickly from adversity, of these children can be strengthened within their families, schools and communities.  These children’s needs are often neglected in Pakistan and other low-income countries. The project will include training in appropriate research methods in understanding child trauma, familiarization with policy and service issues, and analysis and dissemination of a pilot study with orphaned and disadvantaged children.

Richard’s project explores the escape of Africans enslaved within Africa into Britain’s African colonies after Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807. In the 19th century, Britain engaged in an ostensibly abolitionist policy, founding and repurposing imperial outposts such as Freetown, Lagos, and the Gold Coast as settlements to fight slave trade. But colonial officials were wary of the political and financial costs of interfering with “domestic slavery”. This research will study these enslaved Africans as imperial asylum seekers, and examine how imperial policies were oriented towards and coped with them.