Posted on October 24, 2013
The visiting delegation formed part of the Interuniversity Committee for International Relations (CIRI), which consists of the Rectors, Vice-Rectors and Directors of the International Relations Departments of all the Belgian, French-speaking universities. The main objective of the CIRI is to strengthen a concerted policy of promotion of universities at international level, to share information on the internationalisation of higher education, to develop and implement joint activities and representation at international level, and to participate in international meetings and events such as visits abroad.
The four universities from Belgium already have existing ties with their South African counterparts – the University of Pretoria included – in areas of research and student and academic mobility. Their co-operation covers a range of subject areas such as engineering, medicine, mathematics, management, economics, education, and law.
Prof Dr Bernard Rentier, Rector of the University of Liège, said there was already existing collaboration between the universities in Belgium and five universities in South Africa. He said the scope of this collaboration should be extended and reinforced, which would also amplify the student exchange programmes between the universities. “As the six universities in Belgium, we would like to build up an agreement with the University of Pretoria as we have complementary programmes in a variety of fields like mining, stem cells and genetics and veterinary medicine”, he said.
Prof Anton Ströh, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, also reiterated the necessity for more collaboration with the Belgian universities. “In terms of our international strategy, it is important to link with international consortiums such as the CIRI with an objective of taking science to the next level, not only to the benefit of the University of Pretoria but for the country and also for European countries.”
Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, said as part of the University of Pretoria’s Strategic Plan, UP 2025, internationalisation was one of the focal points in terms of enhancing its international stature and visibility. “In doing so we focus on activities which stem from our focus as a research-intensive university, to develop joint new proposals to secure funds for collaborative research between us and international individual institutions in relation to a number of key focus areas”, she said.
Prof De la Rey also said in terms of enhancing the collaboration, the University of Pretoria was committed to diversity of its academic environment by investing in language programmes, particularly European languages. She said the University of Pretoria had taken the initiative of teaching French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. “We believe that investment in languages gives us a platform to support international collaboration and cultural awareness, particularly to ensure that our students are prepared for exchange programmes in European countries”, she concluded.
Left to right: Prof Pierre Dehombreux (Professor of Machine Design and Production Engineering, and Vice-Rector of International Relations at the University of Mons), Prof Jean Marchal (Professor of Applied Sciences and Vice-Rector of International Relations at the University of Liège), Prof De la Rey (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria), Prof Didier Viviers (Rector of the Free University of Brussels), Prof Benoit Macq (Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain), Prof Anton Ströh (Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria), Prof Jan Govaerts (Full Professor of Physics at the Catholic University of Louvain), and Prof Bernard Rentier (Rector of the University of Liège).
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