Academic cooperation between South Africa and Germany abound! Exciting projects and programmes are funded in South Africa with German funding. These include graduate schools between universities in South Africa and Germany, German-African Centres of Excellence in South Africa and many more.

African Excellence

South African-German Centre for Development Research (SA-GER CDR)

The South African-German Centre for Development Research is one of the ten African-German Centres of Excellence funded by the DAAD. By establishing Centres of Excellence at leading African universities, the DAAD aims to create modern educational capacities of supraregional influence. The improvements in the educational quality and the greater research capacity available at these world-class hubs will enable the next generation of leaders to acquire training in line with international standards.

Three institutes are cooperating in research and teaching activities within the field of development research under the roof the SA-GER CDR: the Institute for Social Development (ISD) and the School of Government (SoG) at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and the Institute of Development Research and Development Policy (IEE) at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.

The South African-German Centre for Development Research at the University of the Western Cape trains the next generation of executive elites in Master and PhD degree programmes related to Development Studies. Students of the Centre are given the preparation needed to meet the specific economic, social and political challenges which will arise in the course of the region’s development processes. For further information on these programmes please refer to the Centre’s website as well as to the websites of the three institutes involved:

Programmes at the SA-GER CDR

In March 2020 the global Corona virus influenced teaching at the Centre. Read more about online teaching at the Centre here:

Online Teaching at the SA-GER CDR

East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research, Methodologies and Management (CERM-ESA)

The East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research, Methodologies and Management is one of the ten African-German Centres of Excellence funded by the DAAD. By establishing Centres of Excellence at leading African universities, the DAAD aims to create modern educational capacities of supraregional influence. The improvements in the educational quality and the greater research capacity available at these world-class hubs will enable the next generation of leaders to acquire training in line with international standards.

The Moi-University, Eldoret and Nairobi, the Nelson Mandela University and the University of Oldenburg are project partners at CERM-ESA, with the Uganda Management Institute and the University of Dar es Salaam serving as networking partners.

In view of the need for excellence in educational research, training and management in Sub-Saharan Africa related to the processes of empowerment and advancement of educationists and educational institutions, CERM-ESA focuses on:

  • Research: Advancing and expanding excellent innovative educational research on methodologies, instruction techniques and management strategies for African
    contexts;
  • Teaching: CERM-ESA academic programme which includes a Master’s programme in educational research, annual Research Schools and mentored online modules, as well as an exchange programme for lecturers and students;
  • Capacity Building: The CERM-ESA capacity building programme for academic and administrative university staff is open to all partners of the DAAD-funded Centres of African Excellence;
  • Professional Teacher Development: Supporting teachers and principals to develop professionally and advance their competencies in relevant areas of educational practice, curriculum implementation and school management in their local contexts.

Read more about the Centre's academic programmes here:

Programmes at CERM-ESA

In March 2020, the Centre played a pivotal role in a Kick-Off Meeting of the Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI-FACE) project. Read more about the meeting and project here:

DIGI-FACE Kick-Off Meeting

In December 2018, the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg and CERM-ESA collaborated on a Science Talk at the 2018 Science Forum South Africa. Read more about the Science Talk here:

2018 Science Forum

African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand

The African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) is Africa’s leading scholarly institution for research and teaching on human mobility. Established in 1993, ACMS is an independent, interdisciplinary and internationally engaged institution focusing on the relationships among human movement politics, poverty, and social transformation. While oriented towards southern Africa, the Centre conducts collaborative scholarly and policy-oriented work across sub-Saharan Africa, and has partnerships in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It offers Africa’s only post-graduate degrees in migration and displacement studies and provides training to students and professionals on a number of topics including the sociology of migration, mobility and health, human rights, and research methods.

While maintaining its scholarly independence, the Centre regularly partners with organisations in government and civil society in identifying data needs, conducting research and shaping policy. Centre staff are also regularly called on to provide expert advice and commentary to international organisations, governments, and the media.

Teaching

As part of Wits University’s School of Social Sciences, the ACMS offers Masters and Doctoral degrees in migration and displacement studies.  Select students are encouraged to critically engage with social theory and empirical challenges by conducting independent research. Graduates find success in government, international agencies, civil society organisations and the academy.

Research

ACMS research on international and domestic migration critically analyses how human mobility reshapes institutions, attitudes, economies and policies. Through its work, the centre influences global and regional academic research agendas, policy deliberations and civil society mobilisation. To these ends, the ACMS regularly hosts high profile seminars and public events.


The DAAD funds In-Region PhD scholarships at ACMS. 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.

Scholarship holders in the In-Country/In-Region Programme are eligible to apply for short-term research grants to Germany during their funding period as well as attend interdisciplinary summer schools in Germany. Read more about the summer schools here.

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

TALC (Tool for Analyzing Language and Communication) Project

The TALC (Tool for Analyzing Language and Communication) project is a joint collaboration between the Leibniz Universität Hannover and the University of Pretoria, with researchers from the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University contributing as well.

The TALC project develops a hard- and software tool which enables recording as well as (semi)automatized transcription and linguistic analysis of natural speech samples. Researching speech and language development is transformed digitally on the interface of linguistics, computer linguistics, speech and language pathology / pedagogy and computer science:

  • Big data access is possible by making the process of recording, transcription and analysis more applicable
  • Knowledge drawn from data is based on longer sequences of natural communication
  • Transferring results into intervention is facilitated by analyzing individual environments for speech and language acquisition
  • TALC data can provide an alternative in evaluating change in everyday communication (as demanded by the ICF)

From 11 - 12 February 2020 researchers from both Germany and South Africa held a workshop at Campus Future Africa at the University of Pretoria that aimed to compare views of various disciplines in the project, such as Speech and Language Therapy, (Computer)linguistics, Engineering and Computer Science, on the topic of "transcription and analysis of (child) language data." Interdisciplinary interfaces were identified and connected the German and South African pilot study.

The project is now expanding its funding through the DAAD programme, PAGEL – Partnerships for the Health Sector in Developing Countries, that supports high-quality training and continuing education opportunities in the medical field. In addition, development-related professional networks between students, alumni, and experts in the health sector are to be established. Sustainable development structures are expected to also develop between the participating universities.

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.