The University of Pretoria (UP) was proud to co-host the first virtual Times Higher Education (THE) Southern Africa Impact Forum from 9-10 March 2021.
The forum, which gathered over 20 academics and stakeholders in the field of higher education from across the world, was organised under the theme: ‘Reimagining universities for transdisciplinary knowledge co-creation’.
In his welcome remarks, Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, said he hoped the conference would be part of the answer in helping universities, globally, find solutions to the many challenges still plaguing them.
“There are still so many existential global grand challenges faced by the world that require universities to be at their best, at their most potent. I really hope that this forum can play its role in supporting universities to get there,” Baty said.
UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said the disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic had afforded universities the opportunity to reimagine how things work.
“2020 also provided us with the opportunity to reimagine universities to revolutionise our role in reconstructing a better future for South Africa, our continent and the world. New ways of thinking and applying knowledge give us the opportunity to disrupt the world as we know it,” Prof Kupe said.
He added that he hopes the interactions and ideas shared in the forum will lead to further growth and collaboration among institutions beyond the virtual gathering.
Sessions ranged between 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes at a time and were a combination of interviews, masterclasses and panel discussions. Topics discussed included: an examination of how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may have created a new inspiration and model for international collaboration and interdisciplinary research, an exploration of what kinds of resources are most important for creating a meaningful impact in higher education and what the current limits on university impact are and how these can be overcome, to name a few.
‘Big problems need multiple approaches across sectors’
An exclusive reveal of the THE Emerging Economies University Rankings 2021 was also held. This featured sharing some of the highlights of the rankings, as well as going into some detail about the latest trends, identifying where the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may be most significant and interpretation of the rankings.
The Emerging Economies University Rankings use the same 13 performance indicators as the World University Rankings, measuring teaching, research, research impact, industry income and international outlook, but the weightings are adjusted to reflect the specific characteristics of this group of universities. Only institutions in countries in the FTSE Group’s Country Classification Process are eligible to be included in this ranking.
The session examining how the SDGs may have created a new model for international collaboration and interdisciplinary research was moderated by Prof Kupe. Discussants included University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng; Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds; Dr Lisa Coleman, Senior Vice-President of Global Inclusion at New York University; Professor David Morrison Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at Murdoch University; and Dr Joanna Newman, CEO of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
The discussion highlighted that achieving the SDGs is dependent on collaboration. “We know that to solve big problems, we need multiple approaches across sectors,” Dr Coleman said, adding that partnerships would help achieve the SDGs.
Professor Buitendijk agreed with this point, stating that, in their nature, the SDGs are interconnected. “It’s almost impossible to tackle one without facing the others,” she said.
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