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The creation of new knowledge has become a global project, but one in which the voice of Africa is often missing. If it is to take control of its own future, Africa must generate its own knowledge and, in doing so, contribute to global knowledge.

The research endeavour at UCT is committed to bringing African knowledge and expertise to the global challenge of solving the world’s wicked problems. International collaboration is key to achieving this goal, and we have developed a large and vibrant network of partnerships across the globe.

Partnerships in Africa

Taking advantage of its geographical location and position as one of the leading universities in Africa, UCT can play a vital role in connecting institutions in the global north with its extensive networks across Africa, to draw international expertise to the continent and to ensure that an African voice is present in global debates.

In all our research endeavours, we are driven by the idea of UCT as a vibrant centre of knowledge production on African issues, with African and global partners, to the highest international standards.

Read our research snapshot that gives an overview of some of UCT’s partnerships in Africa.

Why global partnerships matter

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are wide-ranging and focus on the world’s most intractable problems. The United Nations (UN) recognises that the goals cannot be met by people working in silos, and have included ‘partnerships’ as the 17th goal. One of the specific targets is to “...enhance North–South, South–South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms."

In our most recent Research Report, outgoing Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, Danie Visser, assesses what should be done to achieve this.

Download the Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals booklet.

Global research networks

Formal international research networks are proliferating as research itself has become globalised. Universities around the world recognise the need to create ways to organise the funding of and support for internationally collaborative research, and often do this by forming formal networks. These have a number of advantages, perhaps the most significant of which is the establishment, over time, of trust between the institutions involved that can underpin on-the-ground collaborations and encourage the nurturing of further collaborations.

UCT is a member of a carefully targeted number of formal networks, each of which was established with specific goals in mind and therefore brings different and distinct benefits to its members. These networks are of particular strategic value to the university, and provide a platform of already established cooperation on which our researchers can build.

UCT’s formal networks are managed by Wilna Venter, research collaboration specialist.

African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)

ARUA, a partnership of research universities in Africa, was launched in early 2015 as a response to the growing challenges faced by African universities. The alliance will form a hub that supports centres of excellence in many other universities across the continent. The focus is on building indigenous research excellence to enable the continent to take control of its future and assert itself as a powerful global force.

There will be four main thrusts to the work of ARUA:

  1. improving training and support for PhD students
  2. capacity building to enhance research management
  3. collaborative research
  4. research advocacy.

Find out more about ARUA.

ARUA in the news:

International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU)


The International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), established in 2006, is a network of 11 international research-intensive universities from nine countries across the globe. UCT was invited to join in 2015 and formally took up membership in 2016. IARU members work together to address the major challenges of our time, providing opportunities to students and staff and promoting joint projects at various levels between member universities.

One of IARU’s flagship activities is the Global Summer Program offered between June and September every year. Each member university puts forward a module(s) for which students from IARU universities may apply. One of the aims of the Program is to give international students an experience of cultures at the hosting institution and vice versa. UCT will be hosting one interdisciplinary module in 2017: Sustainable Water Management in Africa.

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IARU in the news:

  • ‘UCT becomes first African university to join international research alliance’ (UCT Newsbyte)
  • African Studies: how to make the continent an “equal partner” (UCT News)
  • Global universities' future challenges and opportunities (UCT News)

Worldwide Universities Network (WUN)


The Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) is a leading global higher education and research network made up of 24 universities across the globe. Together they work to drive international research collaboration and address issues of global significance. WUN is the most active global higher education and research network with 90 active research initiatives, engaging over 2 000 researchers and students collaborating on a diverse range of projects.

UCT joined WUN in October 2009 as part of the strategic goal to increase international research collaboration.

UCT has ring-fenced funding to enable researchers' participation in the WUN Research Development Fund, which provides grants for research projects that include at least three member universities and span at least two geographical regions.

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WUN in the news:

Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN)

The AAUN is a group of leading universities in Australia and Africa, connecting researchers and academics through institutional partnerships in order to address challenges facing both continents. Their objectives are to develop institutional research partnerships and capacity-building and training programmes, and to produce innovative policy solutions through position papers with key academics, non-government organisations, business and political representatives.

AAUN is now in its third year of supporting projects in the key themes of food security, public health, public sector reform, education, mining and economic development.

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