Wits-TUB Urban Lab Summer School 2018

Below you can read about exciting projects and programmes that are funded by the DAAD in South Africa. These include graduate schools between universities in South Africa and Germany, In-Region scholarships at certain centres and research units at South African universities, German-African Centres of Excellence that are active in South Africa, and many more!

African Excellence

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is Africa’s first network of centres of excellence in mathematical sciences. It enables the continent’s youth to shape the continent’s future through Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education- training Africa’s next generation of leaders. AIMS South Africa is one of the centres of excellence for training, research and public engagement in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS South Africa was established in 2003 as a partnership project of the following 6 universities: Cambridge, Cape Town, Oxford, Paris Sud XI, Stellenbosch, and Western Cape.

AIMS is a call to action to:

  • Empower Africa’s youth to shape its future
  • Solve global challenges
  • Drive economic self-sufficiency

The DAAD funds In-Region PhD scholarships at AIMS South Africa. The In-Country/In-Region Programme Sub-Saharan Africa aims at fostering strong, internationally oriented higher education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa with the capacity to contribute to sustainable development. To this end, scholarships are granted for development-related Master or doctoral studies for individuals who plan to pursue a career in teaching and / or research at a higher education institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The DAAD also funds two research chairs at AIMS South Africa: Dr Bubacarr Bah and Dr Marc Sedjro. Dr Marc Sedjro's German Research Chair with specialization in Partial Differential Equations and Calculus of Variations, in collaboration with the Communication and Information Theory Chair at TU Berlin, also offers three PhD and two postdoctoral positions at AIMS South Africa research centre in Cape Town. These positions are made available and funded by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) to promote international academic exchange as well as educational co-operation with developing countries.

More information on the scholarships offered through the research chair can be found here.

Graduate Schools

Wits-TUB Urban Lab

The Wits-TUB Urban Lab, launched in the context of a cooperation between the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the Technical University of Berlin, has been training students and doctoral candidates in development approaches towards the sustainability of large urban areas since its inception in 2016.

The bilateral graduate school, based at the University of the Witwatersrand, is funded by the DAAD programme, Bilateral SDG Graduate Schools, in which 6 other graduate schools worldwide are also funded. The programme, launched in 2016 in response to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda in which 17 Sustainable Development Goals are stipulated and funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, seeks to establish and expand key structures at universities in developing countries with the goal of transforming these universities into driving forces for sustainable development, both locally and globally.

A total of 41 Master and 6 PhD scholarships have been awarded to South Africans and other African Nationals for study and research at the Wits-TUB Urban Lab since the inception of the programme.  A further component of the project are the annual summer schools, hosted in Berlin in 2017 and in Johannesburg in 2018, that promote the international collaboration of African and European students on projects surrounding socioeconomic and structural transformation issues in the urban field over the course of one week. This allows the students to catch a glimpse of what life is like in the partner university’s city and to acknowledge that, in spite of different contexts, the problems in urban areas are similar.

Following several curriculum workshops in close collaboration with the Habitat Unit at TU Berlin, the Wits-TUB Urban Lab has implemented curriculum reform at the University of the Witwatersrand. This has resulted in the restructuring of its interdisciplinary Master degrees into various fields under a Master of Urban Studies, and conceptualisation of a new field, namely the Master of Urban Studies in Urban Management, and the further enhancement of the PhD programme. The School of Architecture and Planning, under which the Wits-TUB Urban Lab falls, further benefits from staff exchanges from other African countries and the Habitat Unit at TU Berlin, Germany thanks to the cooperation funded by the DAAD. The partnership also makes field trips to other African countries and Germany possible for the PhD scholarship holders, further promoting transnational and transdisciplinary approaches and solutions for problems facing urban areas today.

The Wits-TUB Urban Lab is actively establishing partnerships with other organisations in urban and sustainability fields and procuring internships and placements at various organisations all over Africa for its students. In 2019, the graduate school looks forward to the launch of their new Master degree, the upcoming summer school at TU Berlin and the application process for the 2020 scholarships. The DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg is committed to assisting the Wits-TUB Urban Lab with the marketing of its scholarships and degrees. Be sure to follow our social media and keep a close eye on our website for more on this exciting project between Europe and Africa.

University Cooperation

Alexander von Humboldt Group Linkage Programme

A research visit to the University of Kiel in June 2019 which overlapped with a small workshop. Nine students and researchers working on this project attended the workshop.

Building a (very) long-term bilateral collaboration, by Du Toit Strauss (NWU), Frederic Effenberger (GFZ) and Nina Dresing (CAU)

Last year we were delighted to be informed that our proposal “Joint South Africa-Germany space weather studies during solar cycle 25 and beyond”, submitted under the Alexander von Humboldt group linkage programme, was successfully funded. This bilateral and multi-institutional proposal combines expertise from the North-West University (NWU) and the Space Science Division of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA; represented on the proposal by Rendani Nndanganeni) in South Africa, and the GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) in Potsdam and Christian-Albrechts Universität (CAU) zu Kiel in Germany. In addition, all four team leaders are also still considered early career scientists. The main research emphasis is on investigating the nature of the local region of space that can influence our everyday life, and how this relates to variability of the Sun. Examples of such events are large solar storms knocking out satellite transmissions, or astronauts experiencing abnormally high levels of cosmic radiation during manned spacecraft missions. In general terms this is referred to as space weather and one day, perhaps not in the too distant future, we will have daily space weather reports in the media, similar to what we have now for terrestrial weather.

These research collaborations with strong international ties do not happen overnight and we are by no means an exception. We are the second generation of bilateral scientists, growing up (in terms of our science careers) within a successful and long-term South Africa - Germany bilateral project; all four of us were doctoral students during a phase of three, three-year bilateral projects between the NWU, CAU, and the Ruhr Universität in Bochum (RUB) funded through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) in Germany. Students became friends, friends became colleagues, and colleagues become research associates in their own rights. Such close research partnerships, built on mutual trust and respect, cannot be developed overnight, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a project, but also to lead the next phase in its evolution.

A big part of any bilateral program is travel and especially so for doctoral students. During a recent visit to Germany in early 2019, several South African doctoral students had the opportunity to visit Germany. Some share their experience in this newsletter. For some, it was their second visit, and for others their first trip outside of South Africa. However, all of the students returned with additional motivation to pursue their studies, having been exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives. For most students, such a visit also triggers a mental change in thinking of their research future, with many wanting to return for a longer stay in Germany, and several already taking up German language classes in preparation thereof.

Hopefully these students will one day be the third generation of researchers in this long-term, and very successful, South Africa-Germany collaboration.

Written by Du Toit Strauss

HEdIS – Hub for Education on ICT for Sustainability

HEdIS Summer School 2018

The collaborative and research education hub “HEdIS” that seeks to bring together the practical and research orientated aspects of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for supporting South Africa's sustainability efforts, was launched at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). The Hub for Education on ICT for Sustainability is a collaborative project of Nelson Mandela University, in Port Elizabeth, the University of Cape Town and Carl von Ossietzky University, in Oldenburg, that will run through the South African universities’ computing science departments over four years.

The project is based on a well-established and long-standing partnership between the two South African universities involving numerous faculties and schools, tapping into their expertise as comprehensive universities with strong links to the entire Sub-Saharan region. Carl von Ossietzky University is an internationally recognized university from the Global North with a long-standing track record in sustainability research, teaching and community engagement.

At NMU, the Hub will be established and run at the Department of Computing Sciences, getting its full academic and infrastructural support. The HEdIS, primarily funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), will explore six major sustainability topics for research-oriented as well as practice-related teaching that have specific regard to the South African context. These include Water Management, Energy Efficiency, Waste Management, Sustainable Mobility, Education on Sustainability and Sustainability Entrepreneurship.

Within the project runtime, teaching modules for the above-mentioned themes will be developed and each topic supplied with courses and course related offers for the students. In addition to the ultimate extension of existing study programmes at NMU and UCT for students, the project will address vocational training activities for company participants. A number of activities are lined up and will take place over the project’s four-year timeframe, including workshops, summer schools and overall project management. German and South African researchers, as well as key business partners, will engage in planned activities.

ICT students and other participants elected by networked industry partners will be chosen to attend the summer schools, getting an opportunity to not only improve their competencies in the specific topic, but be afforded exposure to a global network of educators, researchers, innovators, industry experts and academics.

The project activities are structured into module development cycles (MODECs). Each MODEC has a duration of one year and aims to develop two teaching modules. With each iteration, two new teaching modules will be developed. Within the project duration, four MODECs will be performed, which totals the development of up to eight teaching modules.

In the steering group meetings, the module topics will be planned and decided within the specified six themes of ICT for sustainability. In the frame of the workshops, curricula for previously identified existing modules will be developed. ICT modules developed in the DASIK project will be integrated into the module development to ensure high practical relevance. For the same reason, industry partners will be involved in the module design. Innovative and heterogeneous teaching and learning methods will be implemented into the module design.

Once the modules have been designed and developed, summer schools for these modules will be conducted. In the scope of the summer schools, students from NMU and UCT will be further qualified in the field of ICT for sustainability. Industry experts and lecturers from partner institutions will take part in the summer schools as experts. Furthermore, industry partners have the opportunity to participate within vocational training activities.

SPACES II (Science Partnerships for the Adaption to Complex Earth System Processes in the Region of Southern Africa)

The South African Land Degradation Monitor (SALDi) Project Team

In the framework of the programme SPACES II, (Science Partnerships for the Adaption to Complex Earth System Processes in the Region of Southern Africa) of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), researchers from Germany, South Africa, Namibia and Angola conduct scientific collaboration projects to investigate climate processes, the global climate change, and their consequences in the region of Southern Africa. Sustainability is one focus of this research. Sustainable research requires early support for young experts in research and education at universities and research institutes, including industry-related ones, in Germany and the participating African countries South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. Good networking, close coordination and long-term cooperation between the scientists of these nations are of equal importance.

The accompanying DAAD scholarship programme Capacity Building/Development (CaBuDe) aims at developing the required capacities. The programme will enable scholarship holders from Southern Africa to do research, to network and to be (further) educated in Germany, in order to become experts for the sustainable scientific-technical cooperation between their home countries and Germany. The same applies to the short-term research scholarship holders from Germany under this programme.

The South African Land Degradation Monitor (SALDi) project is one example of a SPACES II project currently being conducted in Southern Africa. In this project, geographers at Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) are coordinating a new joint research project that is studying changes in landscapes and soil conditions of South Africa. Other partners in the project include the German Universities of Augsburg and Tübingen, the German Aerospace Center and, in South Africa, the Agricultural Research Council, South African National Parks, the universities of Pretoria, Stellen­bosch and Bloemfontein, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Prof Dr Jussi Baade at the Friedrich Schiller Univeristy Jena serves as project coordinator. Read more about this exciting SPACES II project here.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) has also written a small article on the SALDi project in their Quest Magazine, Issue 15.2. The magazine can be downloaded here.