On 18 September 2023, the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria welcomed a delegation from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to discuss potential collaborations and partnerships. The meeting, which took place amidst an atmosphere of academic enthusiasm, explored a range of collaborative opportunities aimed at strengthening both institutions' educational and research capabilities.
One of the primary points of discussion was the prospect of joint grant applications and a mutually beneficial postgraduate support partnership within the Faculty of Health Sciences. During the discussions it was recognised that there are significant advantages of collaborating on case-based programmes, particularly in the context of teaching and learning sponsorship. The emphasis here was on enhancing the quality of education and research endeavours within the faculty.
Educational research, with a particular focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning, took centre stage during these discussions. The importance of equipping faculty members with the necessary skills to effectively apply the principles of this scholarship in their teaching practices was a central theme.
Notably, both institutions expressed strong interest in expanding their exchange programmes, with a specific emphasis on clinical platforms. Acknowledging the immense value of exposing students to different healthcare systems, the collaboration aims to provide opportunities for student growth and learning. The potential to share existing online programmes between the two universities was also discussed as a means of enhancing their offerings.
While progress has been made in postgraduate scholarship planning, there was a shared understanding of the importance of establishing a formalised relationship programme. Faculty of Health Science’s Deputy Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson extended an invitation to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for collaboration on some of the Faculty of Health Sciences Research Support Hub’s priority projects. The proposed collaborative projects include establishing an interinstitutional undergraduate applied research methods course as well as joined data science research and capacity building initiatives.
The collaborative efforts in technology are expected to result in innovative approaches to curriculum delivery and the integration of cutting-edge tools and platforms. By joining forces, both institutions aim to stay at the forefront of technological advancements in the field of health sciences education and research.
Professor Tiaan de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria, said he was extremely excited on the common points of interest that came out of the meeting as they align with the faculty’s vision and programmes.
Furthermore, the discussions underscored the excitement surrounding the transdisciplinary approach in various programmes and curriculum enhancements.
“The new medicine curriculum plans involve introducing elements like leadership and ethics from the first year and continuing them throughout the programme. This shift recognises the importance of equipping future medical practitioners with a broader skill set essential in today's world,” said Prof De Jager.
Finally, the potential areas of collaboration were highlighted, particularly in the field of data science. Given the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's advanced work in this area, there is a strong desire to explore collaborative opportunities for further development. Additionally, the discussion touched upon the launch of an undergraduate research methods course, with plans to attract international researchers for collaboration. This collaborative approach aims to strengthen the pipeline for master's and PhD students and elevate the quality of research in these programmes.
As these collaborative efforts progress, both institutions look forward to a fruitful partnership that will undoubtedly enrich the academic experiences of their students and advance the field of health sciences education and research.