Opportunities for new partnerships in Africa

”We managed to create a fertile ground for new and enhanced cooperation with South Africa and Botswana. This was the greatest benefit of our vice-chancellor trip”, says Per Westman, Head of Strategic Planning at UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority), who along with University Chancellor Harriet Wallberg and the Foundation for International Higher Education and Research (STINT), was responsible for the trip.

Thirteen vice-chancellors from Swedish higher education institutions participated along with four director generals for Swedish foundations for research and higher education. State Secretary Karin Röding as well as Sweden's Ambassador in South Africa were also participating. The purpose of the trip was to develop and deepen existing partnerships as well as initiate new partnerships.

”There is a great potential for universities to collaborate around both short student exchanges and more long-term research collaboration”, says Per Westman.

At the University of Western Cape, the hosts presented an example of a successful collaboration with the School of Dentistry in Oslo. The Norwegian students had the unique opportunity to learn about dental health and dental problems different from those present in Scandinavia. Meanwhile they increase their understanding of the complex world in which they will operate as graduates. To date Sweden has no collaboration of this kind in South Africa. The vice-chancellors in the delegation were positive to starting similar collaborations in areas such as teacher training.

Management development

The trip to South Africa is part of UKÄ's management development program targeted at vice-chancellors, which is a complement to SUHF’s vice-chancellor training.

”UKÄ's management development program consists of seminars where we discuss current issues, as well as trips with capacity-building purposes. This trip had the specific objective of finding new international collaboration opportunities”, says Per Westman.

Student protests in South Africa

In the autumn of 2015 and the beginning of this year there were student protests in many universities in South Africa. It began with protests against rising tuition fees and later on also included the issue of the language of instruction. The worst unrest had subsided when the delegation made their visit. While the delegation visited the University of Cape Town, there was a peaceful demonstration against sexual harassments.

"Engagement" at the South African universities

Head teachers and students at South African universities use the term "engagement", a concept that implies that universities are part of society. "Engagement" differs somewhat from the Swedish universities' third task, "interaction with the community." In South Africa, it is clearer that universities must work in and be a natural part of society. For example, many students do community service during their placement period - they serve in the areas defined as "shanty towns". The aim is not only to widen the recruitment base, but also to work in the field and be a part of society.

What did this trip lead to?

It highlighted the many opportunities for higher education institutions to develop their international activities”, says Per Westman." We will follow up and monitor whether new partnerships have been initiated, or on-going partnerships have deepened. Above all, we will focus on how UKÄ can promote the internationalisation of higher education in Sweden in dialogue with the vice-chancellors.”.

Universities visited

In South Africa:

  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • University of Botswana
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • University of Western Cape.
  • In addition, the delegation participated in a seminar at the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria.

In Botswana:

  • University of Botswana in Gaborone
  • Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).

Vice-chancellors from the following Institutions participated in the trip:

  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • Swedish Defence University
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Kristianstad University
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  • Linköping University
  • Luleå University of Technology
  • Mid Sweden University
  • Stockholm University of the Arts
  • Stockholm University
  • Södertörn University
  • Umeå University
  • Uppsala University