There are many good reasons to join the annual pilgrimage to Davos, Switzerland, for the fishbowl meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), says Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price.
Especially if, as in the case of Price in January, you're part of a select band of 20 to 25 university leaders who make up the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), one of the WEF's recognised academic networks. All the more pressing if, as is the case again, UCT is the only African university to be represented in GULF.
This year, the GULF conversations covered topics such as the establishment of satellite campuses in other countries, as a growing number of US and European universities are doing in Africa and Southeast Asia; and worries that Grand Challenge research funding - large funding typically targeting big-name research items such as infectious disease or the environment - is siphoning funding from more fundamental research.
Aside from the GULF meeting, reports Price, in Davos for his third meeting as UCT vice-chancellor, you get to hear first-hand from heads of state, captains of industry and a spectrum of scholars their thoughts on some of the world's most pressing concerns. Price also chaired a session on innovations in education.
"One of the real benefits of being in Davos", says Price, "is the networking - informal, rare face-time with South African and international ministers, business leaders and scholars, as well influential UCT alumni from around the world. Otherwise I have to travel to the ends of the globe to meet them."
But perhaps one of the most important benefits to UCT of the vice-chancellor's participation is to the university's reputation. "The fact that we're there in itself signals the stature of the university." says Price. "Davos also gives me an opportunity to promote the university to opinion leaders, journalists, politicians, African heads of governments, and investors seeking to do business in Africa."
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