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Rhodes and York discuss a formal partnership

Date Released: Mon, 18 April 2011 12:09 +0200

Rhodes University and the University of York may be cementing their longstanding relationship, with a formal institutional partnership. 

Last week, a contingent of academics, university administrators and heads of department from York met their Rhodes counterparts to discuss the possibility of a bilateral agreement. They explored areas of mutual interest and potential collaborations.

Rhodes is one of four South African universities being considered for this formal partnership, as York attempts to secure formal ties in Africa for the first time.

Although this official step would take the Rhodes-York relationship to another level, partnership is not a foreign concept for the universities. Various academic departments have collaborated in the past, including Philosophy and Chemistry, to name a few.

One connection not to be overlooked is with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Saleem Badat. Dr Badat holds a DPhil in Sociology from the University of York and received an honorary doctorate from them in 2008.

Connections may run even deeper, however, as Hillary Layton, York’s Director of Internationalisation, has suggested. “York and Rhodes are not dissimilar in size and mission… we have a [mutual] commitment to social justice [for example],” said Layton.

Regardless of the outcome, the visit expresses both universities’ earnest commitment to collaborative learning on a global scale. “While British higher education retracts in a climate of austerity, York is expanding,” noted Prof David Atwell of York, in a recent article appearing in the Mail & Guardian.

If, in fact, the relationship was secured, it would make way for academic exchanges and research collaborations – though the possibilities are open-ended, said Orla Quinlin, Director of the Rhodes International Office. “They are a creative, and innovative university,” said Quinlin, “It could be an interesting strategic fit. We just have to decide if there is enough to go forth with a formal agreement.”

For now, while Rhodes and York negotiate this uncertain space, academic departments will share openly of their ideas and key research interests, as well as a bit of their expertise. As a part of their visit, Dr Merran Torien and Prof David Attwell, of the University of York, will give seminars to the Psychology and English Departments, respectively.

As increasingly more international partnerships are forged between universities, it would appear that academic institutions are ushering in this concept of the ‘global village’. Cross-cultural, cross-institutional relationships may be crucial to keeping institutions relevant and resonant with this changing society. “One of the things relationships do is they change the way we think about ourselves as academics, the world, and our relationship with the world,” said John Local, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at York University. “We are very keen to expose our academics to new possibilities. Rhodes is one place where it looks like there are exciting possibilities,” said Local.

Story by Hailey Gaunt

Picture by Sophie Smith