Stellenbosch University
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30 years of SU’s internationalisation leadership in the spotlight
Author: Hannelie Booyens
Published: 20/03/2023

Celebrations included the launch of two prestigious SU International initiatives:

  • Announcement of UNESCO Chair on Intercultural Competences awarded to Stellenbosch University  
  • Launch of the SU Sustainable Development Annual Report

The packed Endler Hall on the main campus of Stellenbosch University (SU) resembled a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly last week when delegates from 37 countries joined the University for a gala event to celebrate 30 years of internationalisation at SU.  

The event, held on 16 March 2023, was the culmination of a week-long annual Stellenbosch International Academic Network (SIAN) meeting hosted by SU International. It showcased the work of the University to advance internationalisation in higher education globally. A performance by popular South African singer Karen Zoid was the highlight of the evening. Zoid's electrifying show was a hit with foreign visitors who joined locals to dance to the South African singer's new hit about load-shedding, “They Cut the Power". 

In his welcoming address Robert Kotzé, Senior Director: SU International, paid tribute to SU's academics and faculties for their support as “internationalisation practitioners" at the University, next to their primary roles in teaching and research. “Our primary responsibility is to ensure that an international, intercultural and global dimension is integrated into the activities, processes and programmes at SU. However, we cannot do this without our colleagues in the faculties and the professional and support environments," Kotzé said.  

Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy-Vice Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs at SU, said it was wonderful to welcome a group of distinguished guests that represent the world's leading universities, all in one venue with one purpose. “Tonight's gathering is a testament and evidence of long-standing collaborative partnerships. There are too many of our partner universities represented here to mention each one by name, and you will understand why when you realise that Stellenbosch University has 327 partner institutions in 64 countries on six continents!" Klopper explained.  

She gave an overview of the establishment of SU's international office and how it developed from humble beginnings in 1993 to a multidimensional entity with a global reach through its several specialised centres and collaborations.

Last year, 308 SU students participated in outbound student mobility opportunities, and so far this year, the University has already welcomed a record number of 650 international semester students from all over the world. Apart from the study-abroad programmes, SU also confers joint degrees with partner universities worldwide. SU has awarded more than 40 joint PhD degrees with 28 institutions, as well as over 60 double Master's degrees with 11 institutions. 

At the gala event, SU's international standing was illustrated by the announcement of a prestigious development for the institution: The UNESCO Chair on Intercultural Competences was recently awarded to SU with affiliated research fellow from the USA, Dr Darla Deardorff, as chairholder and Prof Sarah Howie, Director: Africa Centre for Scholarship in SU International, as co-chairholder. Deardorff is the executive director of the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) and the founding president of the World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence. She is also a research fellow at the Social Science Research Institute, Duke University, USA. 

The Chair on Intercultural Competences will promote an integrated system of research, teaching and training, as well as community engagement and communication. It will facilitate collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised researchers and teaching staff of SU and other institutions in the region and in other regions of the world. 

Another highlight of the gala event on Thursday was the launch of a brand-new annual report, Sustainable Development for The Africa we Want (the African Union Agenda 2063 slogan). Dr Nico Elema, director of the Centre for Collaboration in Africa, and his colleague Corina du Toit, programme manager at the SDG/2063 Impact Hub, explained the background to the report.  

In late 2021, SU established a cross-divisional coordinating unit to focus exclusively on sustainable development contributions by the University. The SDG/2063 Impact Hub assists the SU in its goal to become systemically sustainable and to illustrate on an institutional level where the University contributes to two important international agendas. 

SU's Vision 2040 is informed by both the United Nations' 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the African Union's Agenda 2063 and its related goals and aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous Africa. 

As an initial activity, the SDG/2063 Impact Hub was tasked to map and document the contributions that SU makes to sustainable development on a regional and global scale. The key objectives of the Hub, situated within the Centre for Collaboration in Africa at SU International, are to promote and advocate for the uptake of the two Agendas at SU and to introduce sustainable development literacy. It also endeavours to leverage international partnerships for progress through raising awareness on SDG/2063 related activities and coordinating data collection, impact measurement and resource consolidation.  

“As part of our objective to communicate SU's contributions to the two Agendas, we will be publishing a Sustainable Development Annual Report every year, showcasing our contributions. The 2021/22 edition, Sustainable Development for The Africa we Want, is the first," Du Toit explained. 

The Africa we Want 2021/2022 report lists SU's contributions to the goals to showcase the University's work and increase the visibility of the initiatives at SU for both internal and external stakeholders. At the gala event, more than 400 guests each received a printed copy of the report.