Posted on May 19, 2023
The University of Pretoria (UP) has taken yet another significant step towards making its presence felt as a global higher education institution with its recent membership to the International Association of Universities (IAU). The IAU is a UN-endorsed body that connects about 600 member institutions from more than 130 countries with the aim of enhancing the higher education community’s role and actions in advancing societies worldwide.
The IAU was created in 1950 under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The association states that its mission is “to contribute to peace and human development by promoting and enhancing the power of higher education to transform lives, build capacity, connect diverse people, generate and disseminate new knowledge, create insights, and find sustainable solutions to local and global challenges”. It does this through expertise and trends analysis, publications and portals, advisory services, peer-to-peer learning, events and global advocacy.
“This membership will advance our aspiration and ambition to be a global African university,” said UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. “UP’s strategy places a premium on academic and research networks and associations because they enable partnerships and collaborations that advance joint research, staff and student exchanges and mobility, capacity building and the development of academic programmes. Through this membership, we will be able to link up with universities across the world.”
Among various benefits, being part of the IAU gives the University an opportunity to develop its global reach by accessing the association’s extensive network to form new partnerships. Membership also enables UP to attend IAU events, at which a large audience of international experts are usually present; contribute to working groups, seminars and meetings; and promote its programmes, courses, initiatives or events on IAU platforms and portals.
Knowledge hubs, advisory services and training are also at hand for members. Among others, UP will be granted enhanced access to the World Higher Education Database; the IAU’s monthly newsletter, which offers an overview of higher education developments across the world; its quarterly journal, Higher Education Policy; and its biannual magazine, IAU Horizons.
IAU membership is open to institutions whose main objective is higher education and the development of knowledge. Membership is granted to universities and other higher education institutions that meet a specific set of criteria. This includes being recognised by a national body or its equivalent; being dedicated to the study of several branches of knowledge; having undergone a process of quality assurance or accreditation at a national or regional level, or being a member of a national or regional association of universities; and conducting research activities that involve the active participation of staff in scientific or scholarly endeavours.
Within the context of globalisation and rapidly advancing technology, the IAU holds firm to the belief that higher education and research institutions must work to create “global communities of shared knowledge”. As such, IAU members are required to adhere to a set of core academic values as identified in the IAU Constitution.
In joining the association, UP has committed to academic freedom in the dissemination, creation and pursuit of knowledge; institutional autonomy balanced by social responsibility and responsiveness; excellence as the standard measure of performance; opposition to all forms of discrimination; respect for divergent opinion; the promotion and development of intercultural dialogue and learning; freedom of academic mobility and the enhancement of the internationalisation of knowledge; and the promotion of human rights, justice, freedom, dignity and solidarity.
The IAU has a unique convening power, and its members are able to attend a variety of global events that focus on key higher education topics. Most recently, Irish public research institution University College Dublin hosted the association’s 16th general conference, themed: ‘The relevance and value of universities to future society’. UP can look forward to attending the IAU 2023 International Conference in November which will be hosted in Doha by Qatar University and will focus on the topic, ‘Higher education with impact: the importance of intercultural learning and dialogue’.
“UP looks forward to being part of an organisation that upholds and advances core academic values in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge,” Prof Kupe said. “The IAU’s mission of using knowledge to make a tangible impact in society aligns neatly with that of UP’s, and we look forward to a productive and enriching fellowship.”
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