According to the vice-chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe, the University of Pretoria, which is the largest producer of research in South Africa, has no intention of resting on its well-recognised laurels.
“We apply this research and knowledge to uplift society and make a difference in people’s lives locally and globally,” said Kupe at a media briefing on campus.
Kupe said most lecturers at UP were experts with PhDs, which meant they produced knowledge that helped provide a high-quality education to students.
One of the many projects on the go, he said, was the African-Global University Project (AGUP) which ensures that partnerships and collaborations played their intended role.
“We are achieving UP`s strategic goals and targets.”
To this end, Kupe said between 20 to 30 universities would become core partner universities – specifically as they relate to the African context.
AGUP, therefore, would capitalize on UP’s distinctive strengths and competitive advantages:
Recognised high-quality academic and professional staff.
Research-oriented academic programmes.
Being the largest contact university in South Africa.
Long-standing and fruitful partnerships with globally significant institutions.
Focused alignment with UP’s 4 Transdisciplinary Research Platforms and other.
Multidisciplinary entities in the faculties.
Already, he said 468 universities from Africa were collaborating institutions, while 6 254 academics have co-authored publications.
Collaboration also extends to North America with 862 collaborating institutions and 2 793
co-authored publications; South America has 272 collaborating institutions and 455 co-authored publications.
Europe has 1 683 collaborating institutions, and 4 351 academics have co-authored publications, while the Asia Pacific has 1 184 collaborating institutions with 2 365 co-authoring publications.
Despite the formidable international links, Kupe alluded to several critical priorities related to impactful research with spin-offs on a domestic level.
UP is a leader in malaria research; for example, under Professor Lyn-Marie Birkholtz and her team, they have discovered new potent chemical compounds that show potential as candidates for both the treatment and elimination of malaria.
To tackle a disease having a profound effect on society, UP has established the Centre for Diabetes Research, which works across faculties to develop research that aims to improve the lives of people living with diabetes.
Not content with addressing health imperatives, Kupe said the university was mindful of the transport challenges.
Hence it’s intelligent transport through Engineering 4.0, which focuses on developing integrated transportation and infrastructure systems, reducing energy consumption levels in the vehicle, maximising productivity in industry, and creating a higher quality of life for people.
Inevitably, given the country’s challenges around energy, he said UP was determined to make an impact on clean energy and hopes to support the government in ending the country’s reliance on coal.
Kupe said the university invested R100 million in online learning before many institutions went digital due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said UP had to raise funds for this to ensure that no students were left behind.
However, asked whether fees would become cheaper as universities adopt a hybrid teaching model, Kupe said costs in providing education remain, regardless of the model.
He did not see a reduction – just yet.