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Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium (KU Leuven) have taken their collaboration spanning 20 years to the next level by signing a preferential partnership agreement on Thursday (29 May), the first such agreement for both institutions.
"This is an historic moment for us - a special agreement that will take the existing collaboration of our two institutions to the next level. The fact that we are entering into a preferential partnership means that we hold each other in high esteem. But most importantly, it speaks to the fact that we see future value in working together for mutual benefit," Prof Russel Botman, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said at the signing ceremony held at STIAS.
In terms of the agreement the two Universities will set up a joint top honours student programme known as a "Think Tank"; co-operate in the field of education and administration; create joint PhD programmes, research projects and research activities; create exchange opportunities for academic staff members between the two universities; and facilitate the mobility of staff and students.
"When you look at the work that we do and the work being done at Leuven it is clear that the focus is on how we make an impact on society and how we accept responsibility for what can be done and changed," Prof Botman said. He said SU speaks of relevance and impact, while Leuven speaks of social responsibility and service delivery. According to Botman, the two institutions are not only interested in knowledge production, but also in knowledge utilisation and this is a firm basis for this preferential partnership.
"Both institutions believe that a university should help make the world a better place," Prof Botman added.
Prof Dr Rik Torfs, Rector of KU Leuven, said the two institutions have a lot in common and share a similar view on the role of higher education in society. According to Prof Torfs, both universities are excellent research institutions, focus on good values and realise the importance of giving students an education that stretches far beyond just academics and in the process helping them become well-rounded intellectual leaders.
"We're very happy that our first preferential relationship is being established with an African university and even prouder that it is with the very best university in Africa," Prof Torfs said.
"This agreement signifies an important phase in both institutions' international academic networks, but more importantly it signifies a new beginning in the collaboration between Stellenbosch and Leuven," said Mr Robert Kotze, Senior Director: Postgraduate and International Office.
The agreement, which will be co-ordinated for KU Leuven by the International Office and for SU by the Postgraduate and International Office, is valid for a period of five years, and takes effect on 1 January 2015.
Click here for the video of the signing ceremony.
Photo: Prof Russel Botman and Prof Rik Torfs. (Photographer: Anton Jordaan)