South Africa goes OstalbCentral University of Technology Visits Universities in the Ostalb District

Visitors from South Africa (from left to right): Prof. Dr. Silke Ladel (PH Gmünd), Michelle Bernard (CUT), Prof. Dr. Ulrich Holzbaur (HS Aalen), Dr. Monika Becker (PH Gmünd), Prof. Dr. Wendy Selalentoa (CUT), Dr. Luzaan Schlebusch (CUT), Junior Professor Dr. Luzia Leifheit (PH Gmünd) and Dr. Lehlohonolo Matlho (CUT). Photo: © University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd

Th, 27. July 2023

A delegation of four office holders of the Central University of Technoloy (CUT) from Bloemfontein, South Africa, recently arrived in the Ostalb with different topics and objectives. The aim was to expand the existing partnership with Aalen University to include the humanities, teacher training and the arts, and to extend it to the universities in the Ostalb district. The visit was organized jointly by the International Offices of Aalen University, Schwäbisch Gmünd University of Design and Schwäbisch Gmünd University of Education.

The partnership between Aalen University of Applied Sciences and the South African Central University of Technology has existed for more than twenty years and has so far focused on technology and management. Now it's the humanities turn as well. That is why four university representatives from the partner university now visited the Ostalb to explore possibilities for cooperation between the educational institutions. The CUT delegation was led by Prof. Dr. Wendy Selalentoa, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. Also present were Michelle Bernard, Head of Design and Studio Art, and Dr. Lehlohonolo Matlho, Head of Post Graduate Studies Education, as well as Dr. Luzaan Schlebusch, Dean of Teaching, each with their own areas of focus. Prof. Dr. Ulrich Holzbaur, Honorary Professor at CUT and long-time Professor of Industrial Engineering at Aalen University, accompanied the delegation.

The guests were warmly welcomed by Prof. Dr. Harald Riegel, Rector of Aalen University, and Prof. Dr. Anja Dieckmann, Vice-Rector for International Affairs. Preliminary discussions about fields of cooperation and student exchanges took place at the University's summer celebration. Intensive discussions were held at Aalen University on the topics of technology education and computer science education in early childhood, the bridge between school and university, and the use of chatbots such as ChatGPT. These discussions with Prof. Dr. Lukas Schachner, Prof. Dr. Constance Richter, Prof. Dr. Stefan Hörmann, Dr. Erika Lahnsteiner and Prof. Dr. Holzbaur showed opportunities but also problems of early computer science education and led to concrete project ideas for the coming semesters.

In addition, Prof. Dr. Steffen Schwarzer and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Holzbaur discussed current projects in the field of industrial engineering with the guests. The guests also received information on the topic of business start-ups, which were of interest to them. The work program also included an exchange with the head of the International Office, Pascal Cromm, and his representative, Martina Kübler, as well as with Miriam Bischoff, head of the Central Student Advisory Service. After an informative tour of the explorhino, the program continued with a visit to the University of Design in Schwäbisch Gmünd. There, the delegation was welcomed by Rector Maren Schmohl as well as Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Matthias Held and International Coordinator William Levi. During a guided tour, the guests were given insights into the current semester exhibition as well as the projects shown there, and were able to discuss with the students. In addition to the core topic of design, further commonalities became apparent in the topic of sustainability and in the joint structuring and implementation of courses.

A visit to the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd was also on the agenda. The delegation met with Prof. Dr. Daniel Rellstab, Vice-Rector for Research and International Relations, and Dr. Monika Becker from the International Office to discuss possible cooperation in the field of teacher education. One focus was again computer science education and its close connection with mathematics didactics. Prof. Dr. Silke Ladel and Junior Professor Dr. Luzia Leifheit also contributed ideas for joint innovative teaching formats and exchange projects from which students in South Africa and in Ostwürttemberg can benefit.

The long-standing and intensive cooperation between Aalen University and CUT was extended to new areas with this visit. "A basis was laid for new interesting projects, research and teaching. This enriches our university landscape and thus also opens up new opportunities for students in South Africa," said Holzbaur, who has accompanied the partnership with CUT for over 20 years.