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‘A brave new world’. This is what a group of Stellenbosch University (SU) postgraduate students will reflect on over the next few months, discussing the topic with peers at KU Leuven in Belgium. Separated by thousands of kilometres and on different continents they will work closely together as members of the SU/KU Leuven student think tank.
In its second year, the think tank stems from a preferential agreement with KU Leuven, one of SU’s oldest partner universities. Launched in 2015, students from the two universities collaborate and interact on issues affecting them and the world they live in. Utilising the internet, e-mails and video conferencing facilities, 16 SU students imagined ‘the future of the city’ with KU Leuven counterparts in 2015. This year a new cohort, 16 students each from SU and KU Leuven, will envision ‘A brave new world’. The Matie students will participate in monthly seminars on the SU campus where guest lectures will talk about aspects linked to the think tank. This will be followed by a two week visit from the KU Leuven students in November.
“These are some of the brightest minds on campus,” Huba Boshoff, Coordinator: Key International Partnerships at the Postgraduate & International Office (PGIO), told guests at the 2016 launch event. Introducing the SU cohort, she said more than a hundred students applied for the programme and that the selected group represents different faculties and disciplines.
Dr Leslie van Rooi, head of the Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert Institute (FVZS Institute), expounded on the 2016 theme and said perspectives from the South African /African and Leuven/West European student experience will be crucial. “In the brave new world we would like to merge our technology with aspects of society and community in rediscovering the threats and opportunities that might exist for our existence, or our co-existence, as humans.”
Robert Kotzé, Senior Director of the PGIO, talked about SU’s longstanding relationship with KU Leuven. “Leuven played an important role in formalising and institutionalising bilateral activity between our institutions. When we open our international office in 1993, Leuven was the first delegation I received.”
“Academic collaboration with Leuven has left a strong academic footprint with joint publications in a wide variety of fields. What makes this preferential agreement special is that the two institutions recognised that we should go beyond the normal student mobility, which is why we introduced the think tank.”
He told students the think tank would give an international dimension to their studies.
Think tanker, Simphiwe Khoza, a MComm Economics student, said she looks forward to meaningful conversations. “I’m particularly excited about everyone's diverse academic background. I believe that it will provide a fresh perspective to old problems that need new solutions.”
Picture - From left are: Huba Boshoff, Coordinator: Key International Partnerships at PGIO, Farai Mubaiwa (SU/Leuven think tanker), Amy Glover (SU/Leuven think tanker), Marnelia Scribante (SU/Leuven think tanker), and Robert Kotzé, Senior Director of the PGIO.