University of Pretoria: UP joins prestigious Worldwide Universities Network

The University of Pretoria (UP) has been invited to join the prestigious Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), a leading global higher education network of 22 leading comprehensive research universities that stretches across six continents. This makes UP one of only two member-universities from South Africa (the other being the University of Cape Town) and only the fourth on the African continent, alongside the University of Ghana (Legon) and Makerere University (Uganda).

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe hailed UP’s addition to the Network as “confirmation of the critical importance of collaboration and partnerships to address the needs for Africa’s development and complex global challenges”.

“UP brings with it many African networks that are hard at work for the future of the continent,” added Prof Kupe.

The WUN capitalises on the geographical and cultural diversity of its members by bringing together distinctive constellations of talent in a collaborative network. Through its thematically-related research initiatives, the Network advances research and education on major challenges at the global scale, and addresses them under initiatives such as Responding to Climate Change; Public Health; Global Higher Education and Research; and Understanding Cultures.

Within each of these global challenge areas, researchers from partner universities collaborate on a range of focused problems. Also investing in education, WUN provides opportunities for early-career researchers, including postgraduate and postdoctoral students, to broaden their professional networks and gain specialised experience in an international context. At undergraduate level, WUN promotes initiatives that bring students from multiple partner universities together for shared learning.

As exemplified by the overlapping of both UP and the WUN’s priority focus areas, the University’s inclusion in the Network will result in a range of mutually beneficial partnerships that will operate over and above the collaborations that occur spontaneously between researchers, and that will continue as before. UP’s African Global University Partnership (AGUP)[1], in which the University’s four Transdisciplinary Research Platforms or TRPs[2] and its numerous internationally competitive transdisciplinary entities within faculties play a key role, is at the centre of the strategic alignment between the University and the network. WUN member institutions already overlap with preferred partners identified through AGUP but also provide new opportunities, thus enabling world-class collaboration to produce paradigm shifting outputs and meaningful bi- and multi-lateral partnerships across Africa and beyond. WUN has a special interest group – the Global Africa Group (GAG) – drawing individuals together with a common interest on Africa that crosses the four WUN thematic-research challenges.

UP is an active African advocate of collaboration and a member of a number of African knowledge networks, including the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA); Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), Partnership for Applied Science, Engineering, and Technology (PASET); the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), Education for Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA), and as a member of the Association for African Universities (AAU). UP has the honour of leading two prominent pan-African networks: as the only South African institution as member of the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP), where Prof Kupe chairs the Advisory Board, and the Australia-Africa University Network (AAUN), where Prof Kupe was elected as co-chair of the network. The WUN membership will furthermore add considerable momentum to the University’s recognised focus on sustainability: last year UP produced its first Sustainable Development Report; as an institution, it was ranked 3rd in South Africa in the Times Higher Education (THE) 2020 Impact Rankings, and it hosts the SDG Knowledge Hub – earlier this year UP was awarded the South African Node of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

As the world faces increasingly complex challenges, collaboration remains the key to showing resilience and adaptability. Through its WUN membership, UP will not only build on existing collaborations with WUN members but will also leverage these to contribute high-value perspectives and expertise, through partnership with other leading global universities in the network. In particular, UP’s strengths in the domains of food and nutrition security, global health, sustainable, smart and equitable transportation, and sustainability have the potential for a multiplier effect based on complementary strengths and situational advantages. This makes the strategic coherence achieved through WUN membership a cause for celebration, not only for the University but also for the country and the African continent.

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