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Climate Change Working Group Meeting

University of Cape Town, Cape Town, 24 March 2011

University Leaders Working Group on Climate Change and Development in Southern Africa

SARUA, in partnership with the University of Cape Town (UCT), hosted a meeting of Deputy Vice Chancellors from universities across the SADC region on the 24th March 2011, to plot the course for the establishment of a special working group of senior university leaders on climate change. Climate change vulnerability threatens to reverse the development gains of the region in the last decade. The working group is therefore expected to play a leading role in crafting a regional plan for developing the capacity of the higher education sector to respond to climate change and variability.

The establishment of this working group was first mooted at a SARUA meeting of Vice Chancellors held in Mauritius in October 2010, to discuss ways in which academic resources can be harnessed to better equip the region for adapting to the consequences of climate variability. This led to the adoption of a Framework for Action on Climate Change and Adaptation in Higher Education in SADC . The framework proposes a range of measures required for integrating climate change work into that of universities in the region. The Framework further identifies the establishment of a network of senior university leaders from across SADC as a strategy to lead such a capacity building initiative.

This initiative is distinctive in three important respects. Firstly, it is driven by the leadership of Southern African universities through a high level partnership that recognises the cross-disciplinary nature of climate change work. Secondly, it provides an important opportunity for universities to jointly advocate on policy matters emerging from research. Thirdly, it provides a regional mechanism for collaboration and sharing ideas and expertise across Southern African universities.

In his opening remarks the Vice Chancellor of UCT Max Price, highlighted several benefits of collective work. He emphasised the importance of facilitating contact between researchers and academics, sharing teaching resources and providing intellectual support for policy formulation processes in SADC. Piyushi Kotecha, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SARUA, saw the “willingness to work with each other across national, institutional, disciplinary and other boundaries and frontiers” as an important currency for facilitating joint action.
Four themes were prioritised for capacity building interventions. Firstly, the development of a platform for information collection and sharing in the form of a regional portal was identified as an important institutional capacity building measure. Secondly, facilitating contact and exchange amongst researchers as the basis for developing networks and supporting doctoral education were identified as the means to build research capacity. Thirdly, promoting the development and sharing of open educational resources could contribute to strengthening teaching and learning in universities. Finally, advocacy and dissemination work would underpin the capacity development interventions in the aforementioned thematic priorities.
The meeting resolved that a project team will work towards the establishment of a fully-fledged university leaders working group on climate change. The project team will develop a programme of work detailing the outputs, tasks, timeframes and costs of identified project initiatives. The project team also has the responsibility to set out the scope of work and operational modalities for the working group. The following members were nominated to serve on the project team:

  1. Professor Parkington, Acting Pro Vice Chancellor for the African Climate Change and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, South Africa;
  2. Professor Zvobgo, Pro Vice Chancellor, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe;
  3. Professor Mutombo, Associate Professor in the University Cooperation Office, University of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  4. Professor Yanda, Director, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;
  5. Professor Mbhenyane, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, University of Venda, South Africa; and
  6. Mark Burke, Research and Networking Manager, SARUA.

For further information about this initiative, please contact Mark Burke at SARUA at
March, 2011