The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) goal to become the Pan-African epicentre for critical intellectual inquiry took an important step following the recent high-level visit to three Nigerian universities in and around Lagos and Ibadan from 21 to
Nothing underscored the importance of this visit by UJ more than the fact that the UJ delegation – which comprised all nine executive deans, the executive director for Internationalisation and two Deputy Vice-Chancellors, (Professors Maluleke and Parekh) – was led by none other than the Vice-Chancellor and Principal himself, Professor Ihron Rensburg. The Nigerian visit is an outcome of earlier visits to East and West Africa in 2012, where selected universities were visited in Tanzania, Senegal and Ghana. There are great opportunities of mutual benefit for our countries and for the enhancement of higher education on the continent through the forging of partnerships that will facilitate staff, postdoctoral fellows and student exchange, as well as collaboration in research.
On 23 September, the UJ delegation visited the University of Lagos – by far the most sought–after university in Nigeria. Established in 1962, the University of Lagos has an enrolment of over 40,000 distributed across twelve faculties, a college of medicine and a distance learning institute. The second university visited on 24 September was Covenant University , located in Ota outside Lagos, a private university. Although the administrative model followed by this university – being private – is different from that followed by UJ, the University delegation thought it important to get an idea of the environment in which Nigerian private universities operate. The last university visited by the UJ delegation was the oldest and one of the most illustrious of Nigerian universities – the University of Ibadan where the delegation was very warmly received. Remarkably, Ibadan has a healthy 50:50 split between undergraduate and postgraduate students amongst its 22,000 formal programme students.
The ultimate main aim for the UJ delegation was to give substance to its Africa focus, a continuation of its earlier visits in 2012 and also to explore areas of mutual interest and possible collaboration. To this end UJ presented to its hosts, its five main areas of research focus, namely, a) water and nanotechnology, b) megacities and sustainability, c) African philosophy and political thought d) process automation and artificial intelligence as well as e) earth and geo-sciences. On each visit, UJ executive deans held extensive discussions with their counterparts and heads of departments as they explored possible areas of collaboration and exchange. Although there were many synergies and possible areas of collaboration discussed by the deans with their counterparts, the one area that seemed to dominate was the area of research on megacities and sustainability. This may not be surprising as all three cities – Johannesburg, Lagos and Ibadan – face very similar challenges around such areas as human settlement, transport and energy.
The second visit was to Singapore, from 30 September to 5 November, where Prof Rensburg was the only speaker from Africa, at the Times Higher Education (World University Rankings) Academic Summit held at the Nanyang Technology University, Singapore. If what sets Nigeria apart from its sister countries in Africa is that it is the most populous on the continent, Singapore distinguishes herself through consistently and single-mindedly focusing and investing in education, science and technology over a period of five decades. The results are striking and they show in three top public universities with world class facilities and programmes, ranked among the world’s top fifty institutions.
A Perspective by Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Internationalisation, Advancement and Student Affairs Professor Tinyiko Maluleke