South Africa – a destination of choice
“Norway's largest public institution of research and higher learning, the University of Oslo (UiO), has identified South Africa as a key strategic partner for increased future collaboration. To further this goal of building a closer relationship with South African partners, a delegation from the university, including the rector and 10 deans and directors, visited South Africa in early February.”
This is today’s news on the homepage of the University of Cape Town – one of the four universities that we visited last week, on our trip to South Africa. As pointed out, the University of Oslo has added South Africa to the list of priority countries for international collaboration. This was done after a careful consideration of the potential benefits of strengthening the ties to South African institutions.
UiO seeks to stand out as a globally engaged university. We are educating tomorrow’s leaders, and these will work in an interconnected world and will have to grapple with challenges that are unprecedented in scale as well as complexity. These challenges cannot be properly understood unless our scholars and students have access to institutions abroad. Africa is of particular importance in this regard. This continent is hit hard by the global challenges and falls victim to today’s power asymmetries and dysfunctions of global governance. The recent Ebola crisis is a case in point. This epidemic «is the terrorism of poverty”, in the words of our recently appointed honorary doctor, Paul Farmer.
Our collaborations with South Africa must be based on the principles of symmetry and win-win. There is no doubt in my mind that we can adhere to these principles, after having experienced first-hand the high ambitions and excellent achievements of our South African sister institutions. In the words of Max Price, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town: "UCT provides an excellent gateway to Africa, not only because of our location on the continent, but also because of the high level of expertise we offer on the issues facing Africa." The same can be said of the three other institutions that we visited on our tour last week - the University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, and the University of the Witswatersrand: they provide gateways to Africa. Forging stronger collaborative links with these universities and other South African universities – including those in more peripheral regions of the country – will provide us with views and knowledge essential for living up to our ambitions of being a globally engaged university. And in the name of symmetry: we trust that our South African partners will have much to gain by collaborating with UiO – a university far removed in terms of geography, but very close in terms of values and attention to the need of fostering social justice.
The travel to South Africa was an initiative of our deans, and of Fanny Duckert in particular. And we were met with a hospitality and warmth that touched us all. I strongly encourage our scholars and students to consider the possibilities of collaborating or exchanging with South African institutions. The possibilities for financial support are many, and so are the potential gains when it comes to scientific and social rewards.
Internationalization is very much a question of venturing out of one’s comfort zone. Andre Gide phrased it as eloquently as any:
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Today’s piece on the home page of the University of Cape Town: