UP and King’s College London renew memorandum of understanding and expand partnership activities

Posted on November 23, 2022

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP) Professor Tawana Kupe recently renewed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between UP and King’s College London (King’s) during a signing ceremony held on the British university’s Strand campus in London.

Accompanied by a UP delegation, Prof Kupe met with King’s President Professor Shitij Kapur and a group of academics from the university. Central to the MoU was a renewal of the joint PhD in Leadership and Security Studies, which was established in 2017 and is delivered by UP’s Department of Political Sciences and the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s.

Vice-President of International, Engagement and Service at King’s Professor ’Funmi Olonisakin visited Pretoria in August 2022 with a delegation of academics and internationalisation staff to develop the terms of the renewed institutional MoU and workshop several new activities that the agreement would enable. Prof Olonisakin has a longstanding relationship with UP and was instrumental in the establishment of the joint PhD.

In addition to the joint PhD in Leadership and Security Studies, UP and King’s will commence activity on a joint PhD in Science and Engineering, and explore computer science and engineering for an upcoming call from the African Research Universities Alliance and Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities for new “clusters of excellence”. The two universities will also look into joint-degree programmes between UP’s Faculties of Health Sciences, Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Economic and Management Sciences, and King’s counterparts.

“Co-signing the UP-King’s memorandum of understanding today represents a significant step towards our shared goal of partnering and collaborating to address local and global challenges,” Prof Kupe said in his opening remarks. “As discussed earlier today, we see international partnerships such as this as a key enabler to approaching complex global challenges and afflictions that present localised struggles and symptoms. This signing ceremony is also a celebration of the fact that knowledge knows no boundaries; this includes the divides between the Global North and Global South.”

UP is on a journey to transform from an institution that is locally rooted and relevant to one that is continually strengthening its continental and global dimensions. As such, in addition to its national and regional reach, partnerships that are equitable between the Global North and Global South should also contribute to “brain gain”, that is, the retention of talent and expertise in Africa. For this reason, all activities between UP and King’s will place focus on capacity development at postgraduate and academic staff levels. Interventions at pre-university levels will strengthen pipelines of students proceeding into postgraduate and educator phases.

The signing ceremony was preceded by a roundtable conversation on the drivers for research, and outlined principles for collaboration that incorporate lessons from the constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on teaching, learning and research. This latter aspect affirmed the role that digital transformation plays in the effective functioning of higher education partnerships and the delivery of innovative education. Concrete areas of interest and synergy between the institutions were also discussed.

“Partnerships are a key driver of research,” Prof Kupe said. “The Africa Global University Project is UP’s comprehensive internationalisation and global engagement strategy. To become a global African university, we need to engage in high-value strategic partnerships that cut across all focus areas with fellow higher education institutions, university networks and clusters of excellence, the private sector, government and civil society.”

As part of the intention to strengthen and foreground Africa in the research and innovation domain by bolstering educational pipelines in South Africa and on the continent, the delegations discussed a transnational leadership and life academy. The academy should enable access to education at scale for all ages in underserved communities using online-blended diploma modules, and will serve to “catch those who have fallen out of the net” – that is, those displaced by conflict and global migration. It will be jointly driven by Prof Olonisakin of King’s and UP’s Pre-University Academy, which is directed by Prof Nthabiseng Ogude of UP’s Faculty of Education.

In a commitment to the belief that the best partnership work is done on the ground alongside and in consultation with partners, King’s has also agreed to fund a dedicated partnership officer for a period of five years.

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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