Cape Verde, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania... The series of meetings, encounters and strategic visits between NOVA officials and their counterparts in these countries in recent months have been toasted with success, but the aim is to go much further. beyond established partnerships. Now, as a NOVA delegation prepares to travel to Rabat, new bridges are emerging on the horizon.
"In addition to Europe, the cradle of our identity, with which we share a common culture, values and challenges, and the South Atlantic, where Portugal has a historical influence, firstly because of the most widely spoken language in the southern hemisphere, NOVA's internationalisation strategy has as its third axis the southern Mediterranean region, which represents a market of 200 million inhabitants. The International University of Rabat (UIR) in Morocco is particularly strategic for NOVA for several reasons. Firstly, because of its geographical and, on many levels, cultural proximity, which facilitates academic cooperation and also attracts and adapts students from the region to NOVA. UIR is also one of our global partners in EUTOPIA and, in line with the country's vision of investing in academic excellence to support strategic sectors, it is committed to offering double degrees with renowned universities, so NOVA should take advantage of this opportunity to promote and expand its training offer in areas where educational needs are greatest, thus contributing to the country's development. By establishing partnerships in research projects and other forms of collaboration with the UIR and its business partners, NOVA will also promote knowledge transfer and strengthen its reputation as an academic institution of excellence throughout the southern Mediterranean, from Morocco to Egypt. NOVA's international campus in the latter already attracts student and academic talent from the region to NOVA, enriching the experience of those who study and work here with this greater cultural diversity", highlights NOVA's Rector, João Sàágua, regarding NOVA's strategic visit to the International University of Rabat, Morocco, from 17 to 21 July.
At the moment, there are already protocols signed between NOVA and the University of Cape Verde (UNICV) since last summer; the International University of Rabat, in Morocco, and the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa, are, since the end of 2022, global partners of NOVA within the framework of EUTOPIA European University (the alliance of 10 European universities, of which NOVA is a member); and recently, during a visit to Tanzania, the manifestations of local interest in promoting more and better relations with neighbouring Mozambique became clear. But not only that.
The Erasmus programme, which promotes short-term mobility outside Europe and whose focus is in line with NOVA's internationalisation strategy, has also approved funding for actions in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, the Maghreb, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
This is in addition to the efforts to attract African talent to NOVA, namely to Supernova, a programme developed for students who have completed (or are about to complete) secondary education and who intend to apply in the future for higher education at NOVA or some of its partner universities - such as Ca' Foscari in Venice, CY Cergy in Paris or even Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. And by taking advantage of international school networks, in particular the Aga Khan Academy, which includes some 20 schools in more than 6 African countries.
The list of possibilities also includes the University of the Algarve and the new NOVA campus in Cairo, where last year NOVA took another giant step by opening the first Portuguese campus outside the national territory. At the beginning of October, the doors of NOVA Cairo were opened to welcome pre-university students, with bachelor's degrees to follow soon.
This was a more natural step than one might think, given that NOVA already had strong relationships with local partners, such as the American University in Cairo - in addition, of course, to the strong implementation in Africa, due to the historical and cultural ties with the Portuguese-speaking countries of the continent. Portuguese-speaking Africa benefits from cooperation with NOVA through various signed protocols - and at this moment, the promotion of joint work between Portuguese-speaking institutions and their neighbours is also beginning to take shape.
The keyword that links this whole journey is, in fact, cooperation - a work whose seeds were planted by the University Development and Innovation Project - Africa (UDI-ÁFRICA), which NOVA launched in 2017, in response to an invitation from the European Union to the Erasmus+ programme for capacity building in higher education, in a consortium with nine other partners.
One year after the entry into force of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations - in which SDG 4 stipulates that education is a driver of development - UDI-Africa gained even more strength through this strategic university platform, which is NOVA for the Globe. At the same time, it also took the first steps to empower African partners to promote sustainable and inclusive development in their region and country.
The importance and urgency of these bridges were clear from the data collected at the time. According to the World Bank, half of the world's extreme poverty is in sub-Saharan Africa. The world's youngest continent, with almost half of its population under the age of 15, also had the world's least educated population and the world's lowest tertiary enrolment rates, highlighting the enormous educational challenge ahead. Even more when recent figures show that economic growth in the region has slowed.
From the students' point of view, the project already promised more than they thought: "Will it change our lives? Undoubtedly," said one of the supported students - in a very revealing video about the road ahead. And that continues to inspire NOVA.