Strategic Agreement marks new University collaboration

Global news

The University of Leeds has signed a strategic partnership with the University of Pretoria that commits to tackling some of the world's most pressing challenges.

The agreement will, over the next five years, leverage each institutions’ respective strengths to create clear platforms for collaborative research. The new partnership will enhance existing collaborations between the two Universities and enforces the commitment from both institutions to pursue global educational excellence and tackle global challenges together. 

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Leeds, signed the agreement with Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, on 27 May.   

The strategic agreement, which builds on the institutional Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two Universities in April 2021, was signed at the culmination of a highly successful Africa Week 2023.  

Also outlined in the partnership is the expansion of international collaboration in digital education to co-create shared education and training for degree programmes from undergraduate to postgraduate, summer schools and lifelong learning. This strategic agreement will also facilitate development initiatives for student exchange programmes to further student education for the next generation of researchers.  

Professor Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Leeds, said: "As global leaders in research and student education, the Universities of Leeds and Pretoria share similar values and areas of expertise. We are both committed to an enduring and ambitious relationship to help address issues including hunger, gender and health equality and climate action.  

“We plan to develop novel collaborations across the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including co-creating digital education resources that will result in education and training for joint degree programmes, as well as continuing professional development courses as part our joint lifelong learning agenda.”   

Professor Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, said: “The newly signed strategic partnership agreement between University of Pretoria and University of Leeds will transform research collaboration through the creation of transdisciplinary partnerships that harmonise research and student education to deliver novel, innovative partnerships for thought leadership and to demonstrate how co-created, equitable partnerships might be realised.”  

The strengthened, bilateral partnership also engages in universities networks for more reach and impact. Both universities are members of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), which held its AGM between 22–24 May in Monterrey, Mexico at Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, where both institutions were represented. During the closing ceremony of Africa Week 2023, Prof Kupe announced that the University of Pretoria will host the WUN AGM 2024 on African soil at Future Africa from 20–22 May 2024. 

The work and goals of the strategic partnership agreement 

The University of Leeds and the University of Pretoria aim to make a significant impact on society, both locally and globally.  

One of the initiatives to demonstrate this aim is the Knowledge Equity Network. Both universities are founders of the network, which marked its regional launch at an event during Africa Week on 25 May, including addresses from Professor Buitendijk and Professor Kupe. This shared commitment to transform academic culture with new models of equitable partnership that open access to research and high-quality university education will provide a global platform for collaboration and open sharing of expertise.  

During the next five years both institutions will endeavour to drive a truly transdisciplinary partnership and prioritise activities for novel collaboration across Sustainable Development Goals that focus on reducing hunger, increasing gender and health equity and delivering climate action. 

In addition to the University of Pretoria and the University of Leeds both committing to bridge the digital divide, digital transformation through the universities will also see shared digital education platforms at Masters-level for student education and continuous, professional development with joint-degree programmes and demand-led upskilling and re-skilling. 

The new agreement also commits to building on the success of existing sustainable food systems collaborations, such as the UK Research and Innovation-funded Global Challenges Research Fund Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa), to create joint strengths in areas such as:  

  • human rights and African voices and influence in global agendas 
  • environmental sustainability, climate, water resources, land use and biodiversity 
  • digital transformation for sustainable cities and smart health systems 
  • youth entrepreneurship for economic and social value creation   

Additionally, the partnership will facilitate student mobility programmes, allowing undergraduate and postgraduate students to broaden their horizons and gain valuable international exposure. This exchange of students will foster cross-cultural understanding, promote diversity and equip the next generation of global leaders with a broader world view. 

Further information 

Picture Credit: University of Pretoria 

For media enquires please email Rebecca Hurrey in the University of Leeds press office via 

For further information on joining the Knowledge Equity Network, please contact the KEN team at