Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden), Germany, are working together on establishing a global virtual hub that would provide support to academics and researchers, and offer them opportunities to partner in virtual and online learning activities.
In a first pilot, the project will be offering a grant to enable academics from both institutions to draw on their experience in digital and hybrid teaching to jointly develop teaching and learning models. Multiple engagement options are foreseen, including online guest lectures; collaborative, hybrid or joint online courses (combining online learning with face-to-face teaching and learning or mobility opportunities), online research projects, block seminars, and joint learning activities, such as comparative or collaborative online international and intercultural learning. A call for applications for this first phase will be issued in September 2020 and will be communicated via faculty deans and members of IACI (the Institutional Advisory Council on Internationalisation). Successful applicants will receive a small grant as seed funding to help academics secure the support they require (such as assistance from a blended-learning or hybrid-learning advisor) to initiate their projects.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of partnerships to help universities adapt and respond to internationalisation under constrained mobility. While internationalisation may not seem a priority to many during the current health crisis, it does provide an ideal platform to support the shift to online learning and teaching. Connecting academics from institutions across the globe – all facing similar challenges, and all trying to adapt to the online teaching mode – will open up access to existing online modules and course content, co-teaching approaches and student-focused online exchanges to complete coursework and assignments.
This latest joint initiative between SU and TU Dresden builds on a strong foundation of collaboration, which initially started with cooperation between the two institutions' chemistry departments. It is a prime example of an “organic" connection that was initiated at a researcher/academic level and has since grown into an institution-wide arrangement. The initial partnership grew into a more comprehensive agreement earlier this year after SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, and Deputy-Vice Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, Prof Hester Klopper, hosted a visiting delegation from the German institution in Stellenbosch in February. The visitors included TU Dresden's Rector, Prof Hans Müller-Steinhagen, as well as Profs Gerhard Rödel (Vice-Rector: Research), Clemens Kirschbaum (School of Sciences head) and Wolfgang Nagel (head of IT and High-Performance Computing). Arrangements were further tied down during a follow-up visit by Ms Katharina Schmitt, TU Dresden's head of strategic internationalisation, who worked with peers in SU International to identify pilot internationalisation projects for the partnership. TU Dresden is one of ten German universities carrying the esteemed title of “university of excellence" for the period 2019–2026.
For further information on the global virtual hub and its related funding opportunity, contact Anisa Khan, manager of global partnerships and internationalisation support (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sarah van der Westhuizen, Global Education Centre manager (email@example.com).