Although the University of Pretoria (UP) and Murdoch University (MU) come from different backgrounds, both institutions share a common desire to be agents of change not only in their respective environments, but globally as well.
This was said by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Professor Tawana Kupe, in a virtual signing ceremony that saw the vice-chancellors of both universities sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which will see the two institutions collaborate on research projects in areas of mutual interest, and an agreement to establish joint PhD programmes. There are other initiatives that the two institutions have committed to collaborating on which include an exchange of students and staff; conducting collaborative training sessions, workshops, seminars and facilitating internship programmes; exchanging academic material and information; and establishing joint PhD programmes.
The Vice-Chancellor of MU, Professor Eeva Leinonen, affirmed her commitment to ensuring that her institution furthers the sustainable development agenda and believes that both universities can make a significant impact in this regard by working together.
“We are very much looking to create a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful world and we have both committed ourselves to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Prof Leinonen said. “We are also very mindful of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and also South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 (NDP) and through more contributions as a university, we would like to be able to be on that journey with UP. MU is a university that is focused on Africa and we see Africa as an important strategic and academic partner. The synergies we see in our research and academic programmes are real, and good partnerships are built on synergies and on common understanding of what university education is about. They are also built on personal connections, and I feel we have made a particular connection that we can build on.”
Prof Leinonen was visibly excited about the joint doctoral agreement that the universities also signed and she believes that allowing students to be exposed to different cultures bodes well for both universities and countries as they look to conduct transdisciplinary research that will result in a clear social impact.
“We need to be sure that students are supervised, jointly, by our two institutions, and also that they have an opportunity to spend some time in each other’s countries and universities. I am a truly global university citizen. I have had the privilege of working and studying in different countries and I think for the benefit of the world, we need to enable people to understand different cultures and how people can think differently, but have similar goals [at the same time] and how value is brought to that thinking through being exposed to different cultural and academic contexts,” she added.
Prof Kupe shared similar sentiments to those that were expressed by Prof Leinonen in that he too believed that this mutually beneficial agreement would enhance the academic experience of students and academic staff alike.
“I am very pleased that the joint doctoral degree agreement between our institutions is also ready for signature, further signifying our intention to have tangible outcomes from this collaboration,” Prof Kupe said. “Our academics, researchers and students await the opportunity to engage their peers in our respective campuses. I am envisaging active exchange programmes, visiting scholars, joint supervision, joint research activities and professional staff development initiatives following this MoU.”
In his closing remarks, Professor Anton Ströh, UP’s Vice-Principal: Institutional Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Acting Vice-Principal: Research and Postgraduate Education, acknowledged the role played by Professor Michael Wingfield, Founding Director of UP’s Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), and Professor Treena Burgess, who was a postdoctoral fellow at UP and is now Research Director: Institute, Research and Innovation at MU, for setting the wheels in motion for there to eventually be a partnership between the two universities.
“I think this is a historic event. I would like to thank Prof Burgess and Prof Wingfield for laying this foundation years ago. I am truly excited about the transdisciplinary approaches that both institutions have and actually look at real translational impact in the work that we want to achieve and I am almost certain that with the people who are taking the lead in this and are expanding it, we will be successful as two collaborative institutions,” Prof Ströh said.