‘International veterinary partnerships make South Africa stronger’ – UP Veterinary Science Faculty Dean

Posted on November 02, 2023

The University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Faculty of Veterinary Science recently hosted a delegation from the University of Utrecht (UU) in the Netherlands, for a tour of UP’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Science campus.

Professor Vinny Naidoo, Dean of UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, along with Professor Tshepo Matjila, Head of the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, and Prof Marinda Oosthuizen, Deputy Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies, hosted Professor Henk Kummeling, Rector of UU, and Dr Margreet de Lange, UU Policy Advisor on Global Engagement, who are currently developing a strategy to strengthen the ties between UU and its partners in South Africa.

“The more partnerships we can create in the veterinary world, the stronger the country gets – because diseases know no boundaries,” Prof Naidoo said during the tour. “The partnership with Utrecht University has been going strong for over 20 years, and it has been a benefit for both institutions as well as the country. Recently we had a cohort of our undergraduate students go across to UU, where they trained in food safety, and we also had UU students come across to UP to train in One Health. I think both student bodies got to experience a different type of training, both of which are relevant to their future practice as veterinarians.”

Prof Naidoo said the fact that UP is the only South African university with a veterinary school means “we need to appreciate disease control and animal care beyond the lens of just academic excellence, but rather in context of our social responsibility to the greater South African community”, as it helps the country to better control veterinary diseases, making collaborations with institutions like UU important.

Through staff and student exchange programmes as well as research project collaborations and extraordinary lectures, the universities have fostered a culture of co-creating and sharing knowledge as well as their respective countries in the form of teaching and learning.

“I fully agree with Prof Naidoo that diseases do not stop at the borders of countries,” Prof Kummeling said. “Our [UU] students also have to learn about tropical diseases, because these diseases come to the Netherlands as well, since there is so much international traffic going on. It is helpful for the quality of the work that we are doing, but it goes the other way around as well.

“We value our relationship with the Faculty of Veterinary Science here in the University of Pretoria because it is unique as the only one in South Africa, as is the case [with] our veterinary school in the Netherlands. We have partners and peers in the Netherlands, but we had to look for partners and peers outside of our country. That is what makes this UP-UU partnership so valuable to us. To enhance the quality of the work that we do and the quality of the education that we offer, we have peers in Pretoria to look at that quality, and vice-versa.”

This visit was seen as a demonstration of the commitment the universities made earlier this year when they extended a Memorandum of Understanding on Learning, Education, and Research that has been in place since 2000. The extension coincided with the appointment of UP’s Professor Anita Michel as a Visiting Professor at UU’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. This was an appointment based on the TB research she had been working on for many years, together with UU’s Professor Victor Rutten, as well as her participation as a lecturer in the elective course Tropical Animal Health, her involvement in the EU One Health project ELEPHANT, and her supervision of UU and UP master’s and PhD candidates.

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