UP and Ghent University strengthen academic partnership

Posted on July 09, 2021

Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP), recently engaged with representatives from Ghent University (UGhent) in Belgium to discuss further strengthening the academic and scientific research collaboration between the two institutions.

“This meeting was a celebration of an enduring and fruitful relationship that our institutions have enjoyed over the years,” said Prof Kupe during the virtual discussion that included UP faculty heads. “The two institutions have achieved a lot as far as academic collaborations are concerned, and I’d like to affirm our commitment to continue working tirelessly to take this relationship to greater heights.”

Prof Kupe noted that UP and UGhent share an impressive record of engagement characterised by active research collaborations, student and academic exchanges, collaborative academic programmes, and course supervisions, among others. “UP would like to continue strengthening these areas of work and consider new opportunities. We strive to improve our global standing through research excellence, groundbreaking innovation, and teaching and learning excellence.”

The first academic and research institutional-level agreement between UP and UGhent was signed in 1995 and was subsequently followed by other signings. In November 2020, in accordance with a mutual intention to promote international academic, cultural and scientific exchange, UP and UGhent again signed a cooperation agreement. 

This time, the institutions affirmed their intent to promote educational and academic exchanges, which include the development of mutually beneficial academic programmes and courses; the exchange of academic staff and research assistants for the purposes of teaching and research; student exchange for study and research; reciprocal assistance for visiting academic staff and students; and the exchange of documentation, pedagogical information and research materials. Both parties decided that all financial agreements will have to be negotiated and will depend on the availability of funds.

“The European Union has a relationship with Africa that is high on the agenda,” said Professor Guido Van Huylenbroeck, Director of Internationalisation at UGhent. “So there is funding and resources that can be mobilised if we forge close partnerships with African universities that can benefit both UP and UGhent. But most importantly, both the European and African populations can benefit from funding, contributions and collaborations. It is only through collaboration that we can move past challenges and find solutions faced by our countries. UGhent is looking forward to strengthening its working relationship with UP.”

The deans of various UP faculties then weighed in on the initiatives that are already being carried out in partnership with UGhent and where they would like to see further collaboration with the Belgian institution.

Dean of the Humanities Faculty Prof Vasu Reddy mentioned that there are already great projects underway with UGhent. “We have also had some post-doctorates from UGhent coming to UP,” said Prof Reddy. “The connection with South African languages, particularly the connection with Dutch, Afrikaans and Flemish, is very strong and that will continue. There is also interest in intensifying the alignment with the Department of Anthropology at UGhent, among others.”  

Dean of Health Sciences Prof Tiaan de Jager said that there is an established collaboration with UGhent in the fields of reproductive biology and andrology, but that there are many more disciplines within health sciences that they would like to partner with UGhent on.

“We are looking at collaboration opportunities,” said Professor Barend Erasmus, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. “I’m particularly interested in UGhent’s experience of the governance of inter-disciplinaries and research. I think there is a lot to be learned there.”

Prof Kupe concluded the discussion by saying that there are many avenues through which to deepen the relationship between UP and UGhent. 

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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