18 December 2014
December 02, 2014, EEUA representative embarked on an exciting journey to Cape Town, South Africa, to participate in the major int’l HigherEd event - The Talloires Network Leaders Conference: “Live Engagement, Transform Lives” - TNLC 2014 (Dec 2-4, 2014) held at the Spier Conference Center and Hotel located in Stellenbosch Winelands, about 50 km from Cape Town, South Africa. The conference was devoted to Civiс Engagement and featured a great number of important and socially significant topics such as Civic Engagement and the Social Responsibility of Higher Education, Perspectives from the Global South, Strategies for combating youth unemployment, University roles in advancing social and economic development, Social Inclusion etc.
The Talloires Network is a growing global coalition of 315 institutions in 72 countries with a combined student enrollment of over 6 million while South Africa is the second largest economy in Africa. Without doubt participation in this significant event is an excellent opportunity to meet distinguished university representatives from different countries and hold detailed discussions about the topical issues of international university partnerships.
However our participation in TNLC 2014 was not only stipulated by the eagerness to visit an interesting event and exchange experience with our colleagues from different countries. Most importantly, the conference allowed us to meet and establish partnership with South African universities, which have immense interest in cooperation with Russian universities as both the Russian Federation and South Africa are members of BRICS.
Apart from South African universities EEUA also met with other members of Talloires Network and other participating universities from Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Croatia, Israel, Chili, the UK and the USA. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity EEUA informed them about the existing opportunities of cooperation with the universities of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other CIS countries, and how EEUA may assist in setting up collaboration (e.g. find relevant partners or organize a FAM-trip). This visit is rightly seen as our first mass contact with the local universities and we are sure we will soon reap the harvest of our efforts.
At the conference itself we managed to meet with representatives of the following universities of South Africa: University of the Free State (Prof Mabel Erasmus), University of Pretoria (Prof WR Kilfoil), University of Zululand (Dr John Boughey), University of Venda (Ms Vhonani Netshandama), North-West University (Ms Beatrix Bouwman). All of them expressed keen interest in establishing closer ties with CIS universities, Russian universities in particular.
We would like to mark out the meetings with Dr Mahomed Moolla (Head of Community University Partnerships, University of the Witwatersrand) and Dr Christoff Pauw (Manager of the International Academic Networks, Stellenbosch University) which appeared to be especially productive and will definitely lead to fruitful mutual collaboration. Within the meetings the sides outlined their interests and plans in respect of cooperation with Russian universities, and it appeared to be the BRICS universities that both sides expressed most interest to collaborate with. A visit to Russia and straightforward acquaintance with the Russian universities were defined as the primary steps for the nearest future, as well as participation in IUNC Eurasia, IUNC Middle East & Africa and IUNC Latin America (the so-called “South-South” collaboration is also of great interest).
Presently collaboration of BRICS universities poses much challenge and there is a number of unresolved issues connected with successful implementation of joint projects and partnership establishment in itself. In our effort to respond to these issues we are planning to organize the corresponding roundtable at the forthcoming IUNC Eurasia 2015 which would be devoted to collaboration of BRICS universities and will have 1-2 representatives from universities of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa invited to hold open discussions and offer solutions. This kind of round-table will certainly contribute to sharing the experience of joint project implementation, and will allow the participants to pose questions to more experienced colleagues. The speakers in their turn will have the chance to present their universities and invite new partners to set up cooperation. Both the University of the Witwatersrand and the Stellenbosch University expressed great interest in participation.
Another distinguished meeting within our stay in South Africa was the meeting with Ms Merle McOmbring-Hodges (Director of the Office of International Affairs, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and The President of IEASA from 2010 to 2012). The meeting took place in Cape Town after TNLC 2014, and Ms Merle represented both Cape Peninsula University of Technology and IEASA (The International Education Association of South Africa). We would like to express our gratitude for the warm welcome and excellent organization of the meeting. Not only did we manage to discuss all cooperation-related questions, but also had the chance to see the fascinating sights of Cape Town. At the meeting we discussed the international development plans of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in particular the cooperation with universities from Russia and other CIS countries. Moreover, we are very interested in cooperation with IEASA on the whole. Therefore we offered the President of IEASA to take part in IUNC Middle East & Asia as a speaker and present the Association of the South African universities (introducing IEASA main objectives and higher education system in South Africa etc.). Taking into account the fact that IUNC Middle East & Asia will gather universities from all over the world that are interested in cooperation with African and Middle East universities, this kind of presentation will attract additional attention to the South African universities and open up cooperation opportunities.
In her turn Ms Merle McOmbring-Hodges invited EEUA to participate in IEASA annual conference next year – the 19th Annual IEASA Conference, and make a report on the cooperation opportunities between the BRICS countries. We will be honoured to accept this offer and will do everything possible to make our contribution into the development of university cooperation between our countries.
We have great expectations from the visit and expect it to serve as a catalyst for international partnership development between our countries.
Cooperation between the BRICS universities is of utmost importance and the efforts that universities are taking hold much promise for the future. EEUA will continue to explore ways to further strengthen the existing cooperation between our countries and to foster new partnerships according to present day market demands.