13 August 2020 | Story Mbali Moiketsi | Photo Supplied
The Office for International Affairs team.

Supporting comprehensive internationalisation at the University of the Free State (UFS), the Office for International Affairs (OIA) is the principal enabling office for internationalisation at the institution. Led by Cornelius Hagenmeier, the OIA strategically and operationally supports internationalisation at the UFS, also reporting on institutional internationalisation as well as promoting international scholarships and funding opportunities. The office further coordinates selected strategic projects, including the iKudu project, which has been conceptualised to develop a contextualised South African concept of Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC), integrating Cooperative Online International Learning (COIL) virtual exchanges. 

The OIA continues to support internationalisation during the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently focusing on supporting international students abroad, developing virtual collaboration initiatives, as well as virtual exchanges and mobility. 

With his substantial leadership and international experience, Cornelius leads a team of 10 staff members. The office is divided into six portfolios that are aligned with the internationalisation strategy themes. These are: International Student Administration, led by Jeanne Niemann and Letlela Shabalala; International Scholarships, led by Mbali Moiketsi; Internationalisation @ home, led by Bulelwa Moikwathai; Partnerships and Joint Degrees, led by Zenzele Mdletshe and Kagiso Ngake; Strategic Projects, Research Internationalisation, and Institutional Reporting, led by Chevon Slambee, Matome Mokoena, and Bonolo Makhalemele; and Comprehensive internationalisation on the Qwaqwa Campus, led by Kanego Mokgosi.

International Student Administration

The International Student Administration and Immigration portfolio offers considerable support and services to international students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting academics, and international visitors. It is responsible for issuing letters of undertaking, which contains the duration of the study and are submitted by the students to the SA High Commission/Embassies or VFS in order to apply for a study visa. The portfolio further provides assistance and advice to international students regarding the renewal of study permits and immigration regulations; complies with existing immigration legislation by ensuring that international students have valid documentation, including confirmation of health insurance, passport, and study permits; maintains relations with different stakeholders such as embassies in the country, the Department of Home Affairs, and other outside constituents, to stay informed on progress in those areas, e.g. changes in immigration legislation applicable to international students and the employment of foreigners. 

International Scholarships

The aim of the Scholarships portfolio is to provide a much more systematic approach at institutional level that seeks and supports the most talented students on the UFS campuses to apply and succeed in their quest to win top awards for higher education studies at home or abroad. In this changing world, there is a need for a unique generation of students, researchers, and professionals who are internationally competitive. In order to achieve this, the International Scholarships portfolio is dedicated to sourcing, marketing, and supporting the UFS community with opportunities to study abroad. Furthermore, the portfolio supports the UFS community by coordinating scholarship information sessions for undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as staff. These sessions seek to bring  opportunities closer to students by inviting the various international educational agencies to come to the university to present their opportunities to the university community, allowing students and staff to directly interact with the source and get instant feedback. 

Internationalisation at Home

The UFS recognises the critical importance of developing its students’ international and intercultural competencies through Internationalisation @ Home (I@H). It adopts a vision whereby each student will in future have an international experience during their UFS studies. The university realises this by promoting and organising intersectional celebrations of cultural diversity. These are achieved by focusing on the informal curriculum of UFS students; building and strengthening relationships with relevant stakeholders that would assist in realising this goal; developing activities infused with an intercultural dimension so that international learning opportunities are presented within the local domestic environment. I@H activities provide a cost-effective way of ensuring that UFS students get an international experience without necessarily taking part in exchange programmes.

Partnerships and Joint Degrees

The Partnerships portfolio strives to support internationalisation through the development of a strong academic rooted partnership and collaborative networks. The role of the portfolio is to provide support and advice and to strengthen collaboration between the UFS and partner universities by facilitating activities such as student and staff mobilities. The portfolio also supports and advise faculties and departments on the development of MoUs and other strategic documents. As a means of having internationalised postgraduate research and education, the portfolio further supports UFS staff and students to enhance research through strong international joint degree programmes at master’s and PhD level. Some of the activities include assisting academics, departments, and faculties to apply for grants for strategic projects. 

Strategic Projects, Research Internationalisation, and Institutional Reporting

The purpose of this portfolio is to provide specialised strategic support relating to strategic projects, research internationalisation, and institutional reporting that will enhance the UFS’ internationalisation footprint globally.

The University Staff Doctoral Programme (USDP), which falls under the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP) as part of the strategic projects, is a collaborative doctoral training programme between the University of the Free State, the University of Venda, and the University of Virginia (USA). The programme is aimed at developing a cohort of ten 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. 

The office continuously supports internationalisation in order to integrate or infuse intercultural, international, and global dimensions within the University of the Free State. 

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