Black in the USSR: African students, Soviet empire, and the politics of global education during the Cold War, 1956-1976
Thomas Loyd

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Georgetown University

Primary Discipline

For a decade before the U.S. introduced affirmative action into college admissions, the State Department had run a scholarship program for black Africans. Unlike the more prominent East African Airlift, which sponsored students on merit and was funded privately, the State Department program had only one criteria: the students must previously have studied at a Soviet university. This dissertation examines the Soviet training of black Africans between 1956 to 1976, a crucial period which saw Pan-Africanism reach its heights, some of the biggest flashpoints in the Cold War, and the prodigious growth of higher education globally. By the end of the 1970s, tens of thousands of Africans were studying in universities and institutes across the Soviet Union. The dissertation examines both the effect of this training on the Soviet Union domestically, and its international implications. As with the State Department program, the extension of scholarships to African students by the Soviet Union had far-reaching consequences internationally, as well. As such, the dissertation investigates changing understandings of the university in the post-war period: what and who was a university for? And how did the Soviet-African connection influence these changing conceptions? Research for the dissertation has been undertaken in over thirty archives across the US, Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, Ghana, and Tanzania.
About Thomas Loyd
Thom Loyd is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Georgetown University. He holds an M.St. in Modern British and European History from the University of Oxford, and a BA in History from the University of Bristol. His research interests include the history of higher education, the global Cold War, and socialist internationalism. His dissertation focuses on the Soviet provision of higher education to Africans in the context of the growth of international education after 1945. Research for the dissertation was made possible by support from the Social Science Research Council's International Dissertation Research Fellowship, with funds provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as from the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Foundation and the Cosmos Club Foundation. As well as studying international education, Thom also practices it; he grew up in north east England and moved to the US to start his Ph.D. in 2014. Prior to this, he worked at Durham University in their Access and Student Recruitment team, and was also involved in widening participation schemes while doing his undergraduate and master's degrees. This included giving talks at high schools across the UK about applying to competitive universities, and helping to supervise summer schools for local students from various backgrounds underrepresented in higher education.

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