A delegation of Brazilian academics, representing around 20 higher education institutions and organised by the Brazilian Association of Rectors of State and Municipal Universities (ABRUEM), visited Stellenbosch University (SU) on 24 August.
The visit, aimed at fostering international collaboration and knowledge exchange, brought together approximately 50 rectors, vice-rectors, and senior officials from various Brazilian state universities.
ABRUEM, a prominent organisation in Brazilian and Latin American higher education, serves as a forum for discussing key issues related to higher education, aligning pedagogy, research, community engagement, innovation, and global partnerships. With a network spanning 22 Brazilian states and comprising 47 partner universities, ABRUEM plays a pivotal role in shaping national educational policies and facilitating cooperation with federal institutions and the government.
The foreign delegation's itinerary included a tour of the SU campus conducted by Randall Adams, Senior Coordinator at SUI for Delegations and Diplomatic Corp Liaison, and a reception at the SU Museum. The formal part of the programme kicked off with a warm welcome and introduction by Dr Nico Elema, Director of the Centre for Collaboration in Africa (CCA) at SU's International Office. Visiting rectors and chancellors were provided with information packs detailing various aspects of SU.
A highlight was a presentation by SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim De Villiers who offered an overview of the University's academic landscape, with a specific emphasis on its commitment to internationalisation. The presentation showcased potential avenues for partnership between SU and the Brazilian institutions represented by the delegation.
De Villiers said although he has never visited Brazil, as a physician he is aware of similarities between the countries. “We share many of the same medical issues in terms of infectious diseases, but also of non-communicable diseases. There are also several areas of possible research collaboration between our countries in the biomedical sciences, as well as in climate studies, data science and agricultural sciences."
He mentioned the groundbreaking work of Prof Tulio De Oliveira and his teams at SU during the Covid-pandemic and the advanced scientific research being done at SU's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation. He also referred to socio-economic similarities, developmental issues and legacies of colonialism and slavery that have tainted the histories of both South Africa and Brazil.
Prof Odilon Maximo De Morais, Rector of the State University of Alagoas and President of ABRUEM, shared insights into the Brazilian higher education landscape and the objectives of ABRUEM in facilitating academic progress and development.
The visit culminated in closing remarks that reiterated the importance of global academic cooperation in addressing contemporary challenges.
Luiz Felipe Pereira, the Deputy Consul of the Brazilian Consulate in Cape Town, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the delegation. “We're really excited about this visit because it allowed the members of the association of Brazilian universities to witness firsthand what a top-notch university in South Africa can offer."
Pereira said both South Africa and Brazil are increasingly looking to countries in the southern hemisphere for cooperation. In the context of the recent BRICS meeting in South Africa, the future looks bright for mutually beneficial academic ventures and student exchanges, he concluded.
Prof Ticiana Grecco Zanon Moura from the State University of Santa Cruz said the members of the Brazilian delegation were very impressed with what they had seen in Stellenbosch. “It was a great pleasure to experience your beautiful campus and to hear how extensive the University's impact is globally and in Africa. We're especially interested in joining forces with South African academics in fields such as medicine, agriculture, climate, and biodiversity studies." She added that the visit underscored the commitment of both parties to advance knowledge on a global scale.
A reception and networking session followed, where the Brazilian visitors were treated to a taste of local culture, including Stellenbosch wines and delicacies.