Research Internationalisation

According to the UFS Internationalisation Strategy 2018-2022, Internationalisation connects the university with global knowledge and is a critical driver for research and innovation. The university focuses resource allocation and support for international research in its areas of strength and distinctiveness. It encourages publications in international high-impact journals, and joint publications with highly regarded international scholars. It strives to enhance the international visibility of its research and endeavours to attract excellent international researchers and research students to its university community.

The international exposure of researchers is considered critical. Participation in international research networks is actively promoted. International postdocs and research fellows are important drivers for the research internationalisation process.

This portfolio provides scientific data from the SciVal system that supports and tracks the following research indicators:

  • Co-publications with international authors;
  • Involvement in international research projects;
  • Acquisition of international research funding;
  • International academic staff members at the UFS;
  • Research mobility (including scientific visits and presentations of research at international conferences);
  • Hosting of international research events (e.g. conferences and workshops) at the UFS;
  • Publications in international journals, differentiated by impact factor;
  • Co-supervision of master’s and PhD students;
  • Visits by international scholars/delegations to the UFS.

1. South Africa-Sweden University Forum (SASUF)

On 14 and 15 May 2018, the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Central University of Technology (CUT) joined hands with the South Africa-Swedish University Forum (SASUF). The universities jointly presented at a research seminar with the theme: ‘Urban Rural Dynamic’. The seminar was a side event to the stream ‘Urbanisation in the 21st Century’ of the SASUF Research Week that took place in the same week. Wanda Verster from the UFS Department of Architecture academically chaired this stream of the research week.

SASUF is a collaboration of 30 universities in Sweden and South Africa, together with embassies, civil-society organisations, funding agencies, and ministries in both countries, of which CUT and the UFS are partners. Other themes during the research week included ‘Climate Change, Natural Resources and Sustainability’; ‘Transforming Higher Education Curricula’; ‘Social Transformation Through Change’; ‘Understanding the Burden of Disease’; and ‘Digital Technologies, Big Data and Cybersecurity’. One of SASUF’s main goals is to connect researchers with funding agencies, industry, ministries, and society in working towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

    South Africa-Sweden University Forum
    From the left are: Prof Nils Ekelund from Malmö University in Sweden; Buhleng Masake, Honours student in Spatial Planning in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the UFS; Per Schubert from Malmö University in Sweden; and Wanda Verster, UFS Department of Architecture.

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    2. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Analysis – Data and Bioinformatics Workshop (19-22 June 2018)

    The inaugural edition of the University of the Free State (UFS) Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) Data and Bioinformatics Workshop, hosted by the UFS-NGS Unit in the UFS Faculty of Health Sciences, marked a new beginning for the advancement of NGS in Africa under the auspices of the African Enteric Viruses Genome Initiative (AEVGI).
    AEVGI will generate rotavirus genomes in the UFS-NGS Unit to investigate the long-term effects of the introduction of the monovalent RV1 vaccine in three African countries – Ghana, Malawi, and South Africa. The workshop attracted over 90 participants from 15 national and international institutions, with organisations from seven different countries as well as company representatives attending the event.
    The funding was secured through an award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the principal investigator, Dr Martin Nyaga, and sub-awards to co-investigators, Dr Khuzwayo Jere, Dr Francis Dennis, and Dr Valentine Ndze.

    The Office for International Affairs effectively co-ordinated the opening and networking reception of this event, which contributed to the overall success of the workshop.

    Next-Generation Sequencing
    From the left: Prof George Armah, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana; Prof Carl Kirkwood, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USA; Cornelius Hagenmeier, Director: Internationalisation, UFS; Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean: Health Sciences; Dr Martin Nyaga, Senior Lecturer in the NGS Unit; Prof Joyce Tsoka-Gwegweni, Vice-Dean: Health Sciences; Dr Glen Taylor, Senior Director: Research and Development; Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele, Vice-President, South African Medical Research Council.

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    3. 2018 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) 8-13 July 2018

    The 2018 Global Leadership Summit opened on 8 July 2018 on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) with an exciting Africa-themed event where local and international students and faculty members from more than 14 universities attended. The summit was a joint programme between the Office for International Affairs, Student Affairs, and the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice. The summit structure consisted of panel discussions, robust engagements, and social-responsibility excursions and activities. The primary focus was on critical thinking and on modalities capable of developing students to function effectively in an increasingly interdependent and complex world, while building capacity in intercultural competencies. The Office for international Affairs was a critical stakeholder in the steering committee responsible for rendering specialised support to this project, including the coordination of all logistics for this event.

    Robust Discussion
    Students having robust discussions on global issues of social justice and politics.

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    4. Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)-US-SA Higher Education Network-University Capacity Development Programme

    The University of the Free State is coordinating two DHET-funded University Staff Development Projects (USDP) with US collaboration:

    The first USDP project is between the UFS / University of Venda (Univen) / University of Virginia (UVa) with a focus on global health. This project is funded by the DHET with R4 610 000. This doctoral training programme aims to develop a cohort of 10 (five UFS and five Univen) academically excellent and competent doctoral staff members in the field of global health, who are in addition interculturally highly competent and capacitated to advance academic collaboration between South African and US higher-education institutions. Co-supervision and academic mobility of PhD candidates and supervisors are core elements of the programme. The UVa will contribute in kind to the project though co-supervision. A successful kick-off meeting was held at UVa in the second week of August 2018. The UFS participants have already been selected. The process of finalising Univen participants is underway. The OIA, through the special-projects portfolio, is rendering specialised project management support for this project.

    The second USDP project is between the UFS (Qwaqwa Campus) / University of Venda / Appalachian State University / Colorado State University / University of Montana, with a focus on mountain research.

    This project is funded by the DHET with R4 477 000. It focuses on training 10 selected PhD candidates who are staff members at the two partner universities, predominantly from designated groups. They will be co-supervised by experts at three (3) United States (US) universities, namely the University of Colorado, Montana State University, and Appalachian State University. All of these US partner universities, which are also located in mountainous areas, are largely providing their services in kind. Currently, participants who will be benefiting from this project have already been successfully selected, interviewed, and notified of their success.

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