Aberdeen University has teamed up with Zomba Theological College in Malawi to ensure students no longer have to come to the UK to study special Masters degrees.
It is the first UK institution to take a theological postgraduate programme and teach it to church leaders in Malawi.
The initiative is supported by the Church of Scotland which is partnered with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.
A total of 14 students have been accepted onto the two year, part-time Mth in Ministry Studies, which starts in September.
The university has reduced fees by 85% and students can apply for funding from a £20,000 scholarship programme set up by the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland.
Aberdeen Presbytery is supporting the initiative, which will initially run for five years, by paying for course text books.
Rev George Cowie of South Holburn Parish Church, which is twinned with the congregation of Kachere CCAP in Blantyre, said: “The developing relationship between the college and university is to be welcomed and celebrated.
“By sharing our heritage of education we deepen the longstanding relationship between our two countries.”
Rev Dr Kenneth Jeffrey, co-ordinator of the Centre for Ministry Studies at Aberdeen University who is responsible for the MTh Ministry Studies programme, said: “This is a new and exciting partnership.
“Before the recent creation of a MTh programme at Livinsgstonia University, ministers from Malawi had to travel beyond the country to other African nations, the UK and USA to undertake post graduate study.
“But this programme allows them to study for a UK Masters of Theology in Ministries Studies degree in their home country.”
Aberdeen University staff will travel to the city of Zomba, which is located in the south of the country about one hour drive away from Blantyre, where they will teach the four module programme.
Dr Jeffrey said: “I taught in Malawi between 1992-94 so it is of great personal satisfaction for me to be able to go back and teach there.”
Three members of staff from Zomba Theological College have applied to join Aberdeen University’s long distance PhD programme.
Dr Jeffrey said: “In this way we hope to contribute to the development of the college as it seeks to provide ministerial training for ministers.
“At the end of five years we hope that the increased capacity in Zomba, provided by the staff who have gained their PhDs from Aberdeen, will allow them to develop
their own postgraduate programmes of study.”
Aberdeen University is sending 17 recycled laptop computers to Malawi for students and staff to use.
Scotland has enjoyed close links with Malawi ever since Aberdonian Dr Robert Laws founded the first Christian Mission in Livingstonia in 1876.
He died in 1934 and is buried in the graveyard of the city’s St Machar’s Cathedral.
Rev Alex Benson Maulana, General Secretary of the Synod of Blantyre, welcomed the new partnership.
“Africa as a whole is growing, from an education point of view, and we need to upgrade the way we do things as we have been lagging behind in terms of higher
qualifications,” said the minister.
“It is an exciting programme and I think the church in Malawi is going to benefit a lot.”
Jennie Chinembiri, Africa and Caribbean Secretary of the World Mission Council, said the new partnership programme was “very exciting”.
“This is a very good initiative and the qualifications being offered will be recognised world-wide which will be a real benefit,” she added.
“I hope that students in Malawi will be able to come to Scotland at some stage and link up with Church of Scotland parishes.”