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First African university joins global research alliance

The University of Cape Town in South Africa will become the first African university to join the eminent International Alliance of Research Universities next year.

This places UCT alongside among a select group of research-intensive universities like Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Yale and Berkeley in the US.

UCT is the 11th member to be invited to the network, created in 2006 with 10 members. In addition to Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford and Yale, they are: The Australian National University; ETH Zurich; the National University of Singapore; Peking University; the University of Copenhagen; and the University of Tokyo.

UCT will “bring a new African perspective to the table”, Ralf Hemmingsen, rector of the University of Copenhagen and IARU chairman, said in a statement issued by UCT on 14 December.

Marilet Sienaert, UCT’s executive director of research, said UCT was not privy to the exact selection criteria used to qualify it for membership. “As far as we know, UCT was invited to join IARU because of its strong research performance,” she said.

UCT’s position in the Global South would also have been relevant, she added. “The 10 founding members of IARU are all located in the developed economies of the Global North.”

UCT will pay a membership fee to be a part of the alliance, but its main contribution will be hosting and participating in IARU workshops and events.

These include a global summer programme for students, staff development and exchange networks, as well as networks for research administrators and technology transfer.

Max Price, UCT’s vice-chancellor, said IARU membership will give UCT a platform to share and gain knowledge and resources.

“Universities are operating in an increasingly complex, global and challenging environment. It is vital that we learn from one another and that we ensure that African-specific perspectives are part of the conversation,” he said.