DUT Signs Historic Agreement To Strengthen Ties With France

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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to strengthen cooperation with strategic international partners, as DUT signed an MoU with the French Embassy in South Africa at the Steve Biko Campus on Tuesday, 05 June 2018.

The two-year MoU, which is the first of its kind in South Africa, was officially signed by the Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Christophe Farnaud and DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Thandwa Mthembu.

Prof Mthembu said this was an exciting day where the University signs this historic MOU with the French Embassy in South Africa. “This is an opportunity which will expose so many of our students to the language, which will make them an asset in this continent because there are a lot of countries that use French, and of course many other parts of the world. We are delighted that the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment has taken the initiative to introduce the French language as part of its curriculum. This will take Kwanele Kunene and many others very far, and it will be their choice where they want to make a contribution in this world,” said Prof Mthembu.

Ambassador Farnaud said DUT has been one of their key partners for a couple of years. “I’m glad that we have this young lady going to France to work on nanotechnology which is one the technologies we need for the future. I’m also happy that we have French students here, so this is a lively cooperation going both ways. Today, not many people realise that the biggest number of French speakers is in Africa, and it is very good news that today we can sign this MoU,” he said.

DUT Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Executive Dean, Prof Theo Andrew gave a rationale of what informed the signing of this agreement. He also shared some key statistical information about the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. “We have just under 7000 students across two campuses with 10 departments. We have five statutory councils that actually accredit our programmes, and every single professional programme is currently accredited. We are also part of international accords, and all our qualifications are internationally recognised,” he said.

“We put all of this together and ask the question, in what space should DUT Engineering and the Built Environment play in and how it should look like in the next 20 or 30 years? For example, CTI prescribes professional standards for languages as compulsory for their programmes. The French speaking students need to get to a certain level of English speaking before their graduation,” he added.

Furthermore, he highlighted what informs their strategy within the faculty, was of course the DUT Strategic Plan and the context within South Africa but they were also looking at it globally. “What is very clear is that the traditional disciplines within engineering are incapable of solving today’s problems, in other words many universities and programme structures are hoping to solve problems in the 4th industrial revolution, but they are structured and crafted in industry; 1.0 that’s simply what is happening around the world, but we think DUT has made the move, when I say DUT I mean the Engineering Faculty and by Engineering Faculty I mean DUT,” explained Prof Andrew.

DUT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo said this agreement will enhance DUT’s objective to expose students to best international practice and make them globally competitive citizens. “This is to ensure that our students skills are exportable, and that they can work anywhere in the world. We would like to applaud the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment for taking the initiative to introduce this programme. This is a first agreement of this nature within the Universities of Technology,” she said.

To kick start this partnership, the French embassy has offered a scholarship to Kwanele Kunene, a South African PhD student from DUT for her six months training period at the University of Montpellier. This scholarship was granted to Kunene to enable her to implement the first steps of this research. DUT is already hosting two French students within the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

Pictured: DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Thandwa Mthembu and Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Christophe Farnaud, signing the MoU between DUT and the French Embassy in South Africa.

Nduduzo Ndlovu