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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) in Nigeria have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which forms part of DUT’s ENVISION2030 that is to build mutually beneficial partnerships. The virtual signing ceremony included the orientation of DUT Postgraduate students from the Faculty of Management Sciences.

Facilitating the proceedings of the event was Dr Lavern Samuels, the Director of International Education and Partnerships at the DUT. In his opening address, Dr Samuels highlighted that it was a wonderful occasion for DUT to celebrate as it represents a number of things in the life of the University.

“Our strategic plan ENVISION2030 calls for engagement and this is an expression of that engagement. It is also special because it is the deepening of our African footprint. Thoughts of collaborations have never been easy to establish and sustain. As the University we have put in considerable effort in deepening our African footprint and establishing sustainable collaborations. As the University we have also been engaged in a debate about decolonisation of the curriculum. It is our assertion that decolonisation of the curriculum is not called for just internationalisation but in fact calls for broader and more diverse internationalisation,” said Dr Samuels.

Starting off as collaborations around research could move into a comprehensive set of engagement across the University that will impact on the core business of the University.

Welcoming guests, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal at DUT added that often when looking for partnerships most universities look elsewhere but hardly in Africa. He described ABUAD as an institution that focuses on leading others in quality education, service industry, character as well as discipline.

“At the Faculty of Management Sciences, we do have programmes that the rest of the colleges that ABUAD has, which has greater potential for deeper engagements, partnerships in those areas. On the other hand, we at DUT have cemented our position in the University of Technology sector, winning the Acceleration Award in 2018 for the Most Improved Research performance over a period of time despite us being a relatively young university than ABUAD. We became a University in 2004, we repeated this fit for the next two years in 2019 and the 2020 Acceleration Awards. We have also been improving over time to a point where we have now received several accolades from the World University Rankings, starting from September 2020,” said Prof Mthembu.

Prof Mthembu hopes that through these partnerships there will be cross pollination of ideas in teaching and learning. DUT is looking forward in learning immensely from ABUAD, for its mutual growth and with the ultimate impact of transforming societies.

In her opening remarks, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at DUT, Professor Sibusiso Moyo thanked ABUAD for choosing to partner with DUT on this journey.

“As a University our key area is really trying to ensure that in terms of research, we capacitate our people, in terms of making sure they have the right credentials in their qualifications. Our current agenda focuses on PhD training of our staff, we have about 700 academics, of those 30% have doctorates. We are really trying to ensure that everybody gets a doctorate as part of the minimum qualification as a university. Despite that the data shows even in terms of our rankings that the few who have those doctorates are post-doctoral approved. We have a number of post-doctoral students not just from South Africa but from other countries in the world,” said Prof Moyo.

Furthermore, currently their engagement framework focuses on ensuring that they engage their stakeholders in order to identify common societal challenges through research and innovation, teaching and learning as their core area. She also gave an overview of the research focus areas in which will be explored within this collaboration. Prof Moyo said she is confident that this partnership will work for the best outcomes of the continent, universities and the society.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic Research Innovation and Strategic Partnership at ABUAD, Prof D S Olawuyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said it is a fulfilment of the vision of their university of their founder to take knowledge beyond products. He then played a video to introduce ABUAD and the areas that the university takes seriously.

“The video explains all about ABUAD and like the Vice-Chancellor mentioned we are looking forward to welcoming you, to visit and experience ABUAD. Let me also congratulate some of our staff and students that are part of the pioneering of the aspect of our MOU. There is always a special place attached to being pioneers, I congratulate them for the opportunity. I am looking forward to us staying together, making progress together in research and innovation. I am looking forward to us working together to achieve remarkable success and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals in our respective space,” said Prof Olawuyi.

Giving an overview of the Faculty Research and Postgraduate Focus Areas and Partnerships was Prof Fulufhelo Netswera, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences at DUT.

“As already articulated DUT is on an upward trajectory. We hope that we will do our level best to make sure that we do not lose the momentum, making sure that this trajectory is sustained. DUT currently has six faculties, our faculty, Faculty of Management Sciences happens to be the biggest faculty in the University, with almost 10 000 students on average on an annual basis. Our faculty in particular comprises of 12 departments and the Business School in particular was launched and it started operating this academic year. Our flagship in the faculty include the Hotel School and the International Centre for Nonviolence (ICON). We are pleased to know that we have got a chair in entrepreneurship at ABUAD, we are in the process of finalising our own chair, considering we have got a department of entrepreneurship and management. The ENVISION2030, which is our University strategy talks to the question of entrepreneurship and we have been implementing that in our curriculum, we will be doing a lot of interesting work through the subsequent meeting that we will hold,” said Prof Netswera.

He said as a Faculty their research output has been increasing drastically and they have surpassed the University benchmark and have equally surpassed the national benchmark. Prof Netswera said some of their focus areas include increasing the percentage of their staff members holding PhDs to 70% by 2030. Further, he stated that they want to increase their research output by 10%, adding that last year they doubled their research outputs as a Faculty from 78 to 172 research output points.

“We have put systems in place to make sure that this is doable, that it will be achieved. We want to increase 10% postgraduate student publication output and of course it will have to move now to 100% as the University has just passed the policy that all postgraduate students should publish, that means we will have to put quiet a lot of effort in supporting our postgraduate students, to make sure that we comply with the policy. So that they too graduate with publications. We intend to establish at least two national research chairs, looking at a research chair in Ecotourism and a research chair in Entrepreneurship,” said Prof Netswera.

The acknowledgement of the signing of the MOU between DUT and ABUAD was conducted by the Vice-Chancellors of both universities, Prof Mthembu of DUT and Prof Smaranda Olarinde of ABUAD.

Facilitating the Orientation of Postgraduate students to the Faculty of Management Sciences at DUT was DUT’s Dr Emem Anwana, the Faculty Research Co-ordinator at the Faculty of Management Sciences, she gave an overview of the postgraduate programme offered at DUT.

Pictured: DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu.

Simangele Zuma

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