Information visit to South Africa for presidents, vice-presidents and heads of administration of German universities

The DAAD had the pleasure to host 18 management members of German universities in South Africa for a delegation visit from 8 – 14 March 2020. The purpose of the visit was to develop and strengthen academic cooperation between German and South African universities.

During a very intensive week the delegation, led by Dorothea Rüland, General Secretary of the DAAD, visited 7 institutions in the higher education sector of South Africa. In spite of growing concerns surrounding the Corona virus crisis, the 18 delegates and 2 DAAD colleagues from Bonn, Germany arrived safely in South Africa on Sunday, 8 March.

On Monday, 9 March, Prof. Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, was kind enough to give the delegation a brief overview of the higher education landscape in South Africa and highlighted theuniversity’s research excellence. Later in the day, the delegation discussed online teaching and digitalisation with Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, and his colleagues. The subject matter, of course, proved to be very topical in these “virtual” times. On Monday evening the delegation met with Goethe-Institut colleagues from all over Africa at the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, who had their own regional conference in Johannesburg at the time. The informal exchange round closed of the very intensive day on a happy and familial note.

On Tuesday, 10 March, the delegation learned more about the research landscape in South Africa from the Director of the National Research Foundation, Dr Molapo Qhobela. The delegation enjoyed lunch with the German Ambassador, Dr Martin Schäfer, at his residency in the early afternoon and later had the pleasure to meet Prof. Tawane Kupe, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, and his colleagues at the university’s new Campus Future Africa. The management team of the University of Pretoria were sure to promote their already extensive network in Africa and foreground their plans to become a leading African university.

On Wednesday, 11 March, the delegation flew to Cape Town in the morning and enjoyed an exciting sightseeing programme in the region in the late afternoon. On Thursday, 12 March, the programme continued with a meeting at the University of Cape Town. Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, presented the university’s exciting research projects and transformation strategy. Afterward, Prof. Vivienne Lawack, DVC Academic of the University of the Western Cape, discussed the university’s proud history as anti-Apartheid establishment and featured its regional focus. A meeting with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology followed in which Prof. René Pellissier, Director of Strategy and Internationalisation at the university, informed the delegation of the very important place universities of technology hold in the higher education landscape in South Africa.

On Friday, 13 March, the delegation met with Prof. Wim de Villiers, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stellenbosch, and his colleagues and learned more about the university’s funding strategy and singular study offers. In the late afternoon the delegation enjoyed more sightseeing in the Stellenbosch and Franschoek regions to close of a very intensive and informative week. Alongside official meetings with South African partners throughout the week, the delegation benefited from the expertise of the German network in South Africa. Discussions with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, GIZ South Africa, the Deutsche Schule Johannesburg, the Science Counsellor of the German Embassy and German researchers and university staff in South Africa further enriched the evening programme.

The delegation flew back to Germany on Saturday, 14 March and arrived safely on Sunday. In virtual discussions afterward the entire delegation expressed joy that they could participate in this trip that would prove to be the last trip they could participate in for a while. During lockdown restrictions, memories of South Africa’s beautiful scenery, its exciting and growing higher education landscape and new networks that were formed during the trip certainly are a consolation.

We are confident that the networks formed during this delegation visit will lead to exciting cooperations between German and South African universities in the months and years to come. We thank our South African partners very sincerely for their warm welcome and readiness to engage with us!

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