International Higher Education and Strategic Projects

Strong systems of higher education and cultural institutions are essential to building and sustaining viable polities and societies in emerging as well as more established regions of the globe.

Mission and Goals

The Foundation's promising experience in South Africa justifies targeted extension of that program's work to other countries or regions where the Foundation's commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education could contribute to stabilizing fragile democracies, and create favorable conditions for their participation in global networks of research and culture.  In its initial phase of development, the International Higher Education program will stress partnerships with institutions already supported by the Foundation, especially on issues of global grand challenges.

The program's overarching purpose is to help these institutions become durable and capable of contributing to social cohesion, as well as to assist them in constructing educational systems that serve the interests of society at large.  In order to bolster the capacities of academic and cultural institutions and of the people working within them, the program will provide professional and financial resources in support of teaching, learning, scholarship, and effective scholarly communication, and will encourage its grantees to find ways to share the benefits of this work with the public at large.

Given the fundamental imperatives of meeting basic needs such as clean air, water, energy, food, and health, providing for environmental sustainability, and creating equitable societies in the face of deepening inequality, it is clear that the Foundation's ongoing support for the arts and humanities will necessitate an integrative engagement with scholars in all academic disciplines—first and foremost with the social sciences, but in the spirit of liberal education extending to the natural sciences and technology as well.  The program encourages proposals that are attentive to the common challenges facing humanity and to the need for interdisciplinary and international scholarly collaboration oriented toward trans-hemispheric or global solutions.

New areas and strengthened emphases will include:

  • Programs that engage scholars in all academic disciplines in the joint study of core problems affecting their own societies
  • Initiatives that mobilize humanistic scholars and artists to participate in interdisciplinary and international collaboration on grand challenge questions
  • Projects that share the benefits of teaching, learning, and research in the humanities and the arts with the public
  • Coordination of international grantmaking across all program areas in order to heighten the salience of global contexts to all our grantmaking

Archaeologists’ Discovery of the World’s Oldest Drawing Highlights Strong Interest in Ancient Rock Art 

The South African Rock Art Digital Archive offers a virtual trove of more than 250,000 images of ancient artwork.


Mellon Releases New Publication Celebrating 30 Years of Grantmaking in South Africa 

This year, the Mellon Foundation celebrates 30 years of grantmaking in South Africa. Since 1988, when then president William G. Bowen initiated Mellon’s support for South African universities, the Foundation has provided has awarded over $187 million in arts and humanities grants to a total of 44 South African universities and other institutions.


Five Things About Mellon's Support of Arts and Scholarship in South Africa 

The Mellon Foundation has been making grants to South African universities since 1988. Thirty years later, we look back at the experience and how it informs future grantmaking.


Expanding Our Vision: Strengthening Pan-African and Pan-Arab Institutions 

The Mellon Foundation has been engaged in international grantmaking since 1969 and has embarked on a new phase of international initiatives with newly established pilots in Uganda and Ghana.


Deciphering South African Higher Education Protests of 2015-16 

Saleem Badat, program director for International Higher Education and Strategic Projects, gives context.


How Do Societies Harmed by Mass Violence Begin to Heal? 

Marjory Jobson, Director of the Khulumani Victims Support Group and Nomfundo Walaza, Director of the Desmond Tutu Peace Center at “Speaking Wounds: Voices of the Marikana Widows through Art and Narrative”—a public event and part of the series “Trauma, Memory and Representation of the Past” at the University of the Free State in the series.


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