Getting down to business in France

Cultivating partnerships in France. From left, Mbali Mkhize, Senior Director: Marketing and Communication; Xolile Ngubane of the Technology Station in Chemicals; Dr Manyane Makua, Acting DVC: Teaching and Learning; and Dr Njabulo Gumede, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry

At the directive of the Acting Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale; Dr Manyane Makua, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning was requested to lead a delegation to the South-Africa Higher Education & Research Week in France from 27 June – 2 July 2022. The huge task for Dr Makua together with Dr Anette Mienie, Director of the Research Directorate at MUT, was to select a delegation that would add value to the University’s Internationalisation Strategy 2022.

The week in question was attended by high-powered decision-makers in South Africa’s and France’s higher education sectors, ambassadors from both countries and major role players in the university and research sectors of both countries.  Right at the outset, the delegation that included Prof Babatunde Bakare, Dr Njabulo Gumede, Mbali Mkhize and Xolile Ngubane had a clear mandate from the delegation leader, Dr Makua, to, “identify opportunities for MUT and to stand tall among top universities”. That is exactly what the team did.

There were different engagements ranging from Dr Makua meeting with presidents of various science and research entities, including a Minister of Education, and making the MUT voice heard. Other colleagues had to market the university to peers across Paris and within France itself. Some engagements entailed travelling by Euro trains to outlying areas of France. The result is that MUT will be signing favourable MoUs with universities in France, something that would not have taken place without this platform.

A lot of work was put into planning this. The cherry on top of the whole programme is that MUT had an opportunity to become part of the 23 universities from South Africa represented by 130 delegates, and universities from France represented by 40 universities and various research organisations. Lessons learned during these visits are that French universities raise one another as they rise. They empower one another and collaborate as a consortium, and they do not compete against one another which is what is common in many countries. In addition, the South African universities began to acknowledge that a more inclusive approach is required internally to drive the research output of the country.

Major funded projects were launched that would require the universities to collaborate.

“I will be watching the announcements closely and will do my best to ensure that MUT is ready to submit proposals with French universities. The groundwork that took place with colleagues visiting various universities has ensured that by the time the funding is launched, MUT should have no less than two signed MoUs. We are moving fast and next week, we are having our first engagement with one university. I do commend the delegation l led for all their hard work and dedication”, said Dr Makua.