University of Pretoria: UP VC Prof Kupe hosts MMUST delegation for benchmarking exercise

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP) Professor Tawana Kupe hosted a welcome lunch today for a delegation from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in Kenya.

The delegation will spend a week at UP from 14 to 19 February as part of a benchmarking exercise, and is led by Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi, Kenyan Ministry of Education Principal Secretary of the State Department of University Education and Research; Dr Jane Musangi Mutua, Chair of the MMUST Council; and MMUST Vice-Chancellor Prof Solomon Shibairo.

Delegation members will engage with faculties and support service entities across UP. The benchmarking is intended to support MMUST in establishing a research management office (RMO) as part of their institutional goal of transitioning into a research-intensive university that cultivates partnerships and co-generates knowledge that is of intrinsic value to society.

During the welcome reception, Prof Kupe highlighted the importance of global partnerships to support institutional capacity building in Africa. “Collaboration and partnerships open up the possibly for leaders to rethink and reimagine how higher education institutions can collectively mobilise towards strengthening and advancing the research agenda of the continent.”

The benchmarking exercise is part of the collaborative project “Building Research Capacity for Sustainable Water and Food Security in Drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa” (BRECcIA), which involves six universities from the UK, Malawi, Kenya and Ghana. This initiative is led by the University of Southampton, with technical support from eight international organisations including the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA). The four-year BRECcIA project which is supported by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund project aims to develop research capacity across institutions, with a particular focus on improving food and water security for the most vulnerable members of society.

During the course of the BRECciA project, researchers and professional staff at MMUST as well as other partner universities received capacity building in various areas, ranging from grants and contracts management and research ethics to intellectual property and commercialisation. This has enabled MMUST to conceptualise the establishment of a functional RMO.

As part of this process, UP is committed to partnering with MMUST to share its experiences in the journey to becoming a research-intensive university. This is within the context of UP’s internationalisation and global engagement initiative the African Global University Project, which intends to facilitate purpose-driven collaborative partnerships with key strategic partners.

During the benchmarking exercise, MMUST delegation will engage with UP faculties and various transdisciplinary platforms to assess the governance mechanisms and best practices to foster science, technology and innovation; explore the practicalities of translating research into impact pathways to society; and increase understanding of approaches that are valuable in increasing research funding and collaborative partnerships.

“The UP-MMUST engagements and consultations form the bedrock of the evidence-based framework needed to strengthen research capacity and capabilities for Kenyan universities,” said Dr Julie Reeves of Southampton University. “We are proud to be part of this exciting journey and look forward to the recommendations from this benchmarking exercise.”

On behalf of the government of Kenya, Ambassador Nabukwesi emphasised the importance of “collaboration between South African and Kenyan universities in research that is geared towards solving real-life problems”. “Through the Ministry of Education, the Kenyan government appreciates the role of South African universities, especially the University of Pretoria, in building capacity for some of the upcoming universities in Kenya,” he added.

MMUST Council Chair Dr Mutua was also supportive of the collaboration and highlighted the importance of the benchmarking exercise. “We are here to observe, interact and benefit from best practices in research management that we can apply at Masinde Muliro University.”

Prof Shibairo echoed his counterpart Prof Kupe’s sentiments. “This benchmarking exercise comes at an apt time, when the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined a new way of life. I would like to extend my gratitude to the leadership at UP for their warm hospitality and expertise as well as the support of the implementation partners, SARIMA, BRECciA and the University of Southampton. We are optimistic that this valuable exercise will widen our perspectives and guide us in repositioning MMUST’s strategic priorities in the short and medium term. We have committed to focusing on research as a key pillar in the development of the University.”

“The very purpose of SARIMA is to bring together research and innovation professionals in Southern Africa, Africa and abroad,” Nelisha Naidoo, SARIMA General Manager, noted. “The UP-MMUST benchmarking exercise promotes and facilitates the exchange of best practices between institutions on the continent. It will strengthen our research and innovation ecosystems and capacity in Africa so that research undertaken on the continent is more impactful and efficiently supported, ultimately leading to new local products and services reaching the marketplace that will positively impact our societies and economies.”

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