The University of Pretoria (UP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, formally consolidating an existing relationship that was established in 2006. This broad institutional agreement encompasses all aspects of collaborative research, student and staff exchange, as well as collaborative academic programmes.
Speaking at the partnership agreement signing ceremony in Champaign, Illinois, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said: “We are extremely grateful for the relationship with the University of Illinois, which has blossomed and deepened over the past 17 years, through formal agreements, staff and student mobility, research collaborations, and, more recently, visits between the delegations from the two institutions, where synergies were explored and areas for collaboration identified.”
“The signing of our institutional agreement for mutual engagement and benefit is thus an exciting new milestone for our partnership, and we look forward to working together on initiatives and activities that will aid towards the realisation of our shared goals,” he said.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert J. Jones expressed his mutual appreciation, saying that the two institutions are united in their vision. “The complex problems of our time cannot be tackled in isolation,” said Chancellor Jones. “Now more than ever, we need collaborative partnerships to co-create innovative solutions to global challenges and foster an environment of exceptional teaching and learning for all students.”
The University of Illinois was founded through a land-grant in 1867, and is home to more than 50 000 students from all 50 states in the United States, and more than 100 countries across the world. Rated the 13th best public university in the US (U.S News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges rankings, 2022-23), faculty members and alumni have together been recipients of 24 Nobel prizes and 28 Pulitzer prizes.
As the University of Pretoria moves towards its vision to be a leading research-intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact both locally and globally, the institution has created a framework of strategy partners across the world under the firm belief that knowledge knows no boundaries. The university is already making great strides in producing socially impactful research through its five transdisciplinary innovation platforms – the Future Africa Institute, Engineering 4.0, the Javett-UP Art Centre, Innovation Africa@UP and the Centre for the Future of Work.
According to research performance assessment tool SciVal, UP and the University of Illinois have co-authored 81 publications between 2017 and 2023. The most prolific subject areas for collaboration are physics and astronomy, and earth and planetary sciences, together with agricultural and biological sciences.
In June 2019, a group of students and researchers from the University of Illinois visited the UP Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-Being, to connect communities of like-minded researchers. A group of engineering students from the University of Illinois also worked together with UP students completing their community engagement module in 2016, with various service-related activities around Pretoria.
Professor Kupe, together with Professor Barend Erasmus, Dean, Natural and Agricultural Sciences Faculty; Professor Wynand Steyn, Dean, Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology Faculty; Professor Margaret Chitiga-Mabuga, Dean, Economic and Management Sciences Faculty; Professor Christopher Isike, Director of the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) and Dr Farai Kapfudzaruwa, Research and Strategic Partnerships Manager, Future Africa, were part of the delegation that visited the USA, where the signing of the MOU took place, along with faculty tours, meetings and hospitality provided by the University of Illinois.