International Partner Week Makes Welcome Live Return
UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division hosted a variety of stakeholders for the annual International Partner Week, which was held in person for the first time since 2018.
The programme was jam-packed with activities, chief among which was the Internationalisation Summit on 20 October.
Held under the theme: Reconnecting after Disconnecting: Reimagining Internationalisation Post-COVID-19 and Beyond,the Summit brought various stakeholders together to discuss innovative ways to advance internationalisation. It was attended by senior government officials, researchers, students and senior academics from UKZN and other local and overseas institutions.
Opening the Summit, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Busisiwe Ncama, said the University’s internationalisation efforts were negatively affected by lockdown measures but noted that COVID-19 also forced it to be more innovative.
‘We had to seek new ways to create platforms that ensured that our students continued to participate in programmes offered by our partner institutions while ensuring that our international students continued to participate fully in our programmes,’ Ncama added.
Delivering the keynote address, the High Commissioner for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Lovell Francis, reflected on the numerous lessons humankind should have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the understanding that the world is a perilous biological landscape that has not been tamed.
He noted that the pandemic was fought through partnerships and collaborations. ‘The pandemic was an existential crisis that required all hands, on deck - without that, we wouldn’t be here today.’ Stressing the importance of collaborations, he said: ‘The problems we face cannot be solved by people working in isolation. We must collaborate because the problems are too large and too immediate.’
The Summit included five plenary panel discussions with various national and international speakers. The first titled, The Responsibilities of Universities, Government, and other Stakeholders in Advancing Internationalisation in Higher Education, was facilitated by an academic leader and lecturer in the Department of Architecture, Mr Lawrence Babatunde Ogunsanya.
It featured panellists, Dr Corinne Langsfield from Denver University, who recounted how partnerships within her institution had led to enhanced recognition and reputation; Mr Phindiwe Mbhele, Director of Corporate Accounts at the Department of Home Affairs, who spoke on his department’s role in supporting academic exchanges and how it is clearing the backlog of student visa applications which hamper internationalisation; and the Chief Director of University Education Policy and Development at the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mahlubi Mabizela who reflected on the development of the national strategy on internationalisation and ongoing research on the state of internationalisation within institutions. Mr Eric Apelgren, the Head of International and Governance Relations at eThekwini Municipality, examined partnerships between the city and UKZN at national and international levels.
The second plenary session titled, The Future of African Traditional Medicine Post-COVID is Bright through International Partnerships, featured the work of Professor Nceba Gqaleni, Research Professor in African Traditional Medicine and Faculty Member at the Africa Health Research Institute.
Gqaleni highlighted the growth of traditional medicine, the importance of collaborations in developing multi-centre, multi-national studies, capacity building and clinical results.
Cross-Border Education, Online Teaching, Student and Staff Mobility was the focus of the third session, which reviewed an academic exchange programme spearheaded by Professor Thabo Msibi, Dean and Head of the School of Education at UKZN and its benefits for staff who also shared their experiences.
Other plenary sessions included: Administration and Reporting on the Internationalisation of Higher Education; and International Collaborations and Partnerships.
In his closing remarks, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela emphasised the need to move from developing policies to implementing and developing ways to measure their success. He agreed that increased collaboration will advance internationalisation: ‘Going forward into the 21st century, we will not succeed if we try and do things on our own.’
International Partner Week included a range of other exciting activities, including a Ricksha double-decker bus tour of greater Durban and a two-day meeting where delegates visited divisions and research centres within UKZN to discuss possible co-operation in various areas.
The week ended on a high note, with delegates enjoying fine-dining, dancing and entertainment at the Culinary Extravaganza on the Edgewood campus.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela
Photographs: Albert Hirasen and Sethu Dlamini