King and Queen of Belgium on a historic visit to UWC

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Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgian people paid a historic visit to the University of the Western Cape on Saturday.

University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Belgian universities have long-standing relationships dating back decades.

The university’s former Rector Professor Jakes Gerwel studied at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in the 1970s.

The royal couple spent time with students of the Digital Inclusion and Social Innovation project.


Long-standing partnerships with Ghent University and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have contributed greatly to setting UWC on the development trajectory it is on today.

Collaborations with international institutions are critical to finding global solutions.

UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius says, “I always say that now is the time for us to look to each other and not to turn on each other. The global challenges of our time, poverty, inequality, and food insecurity are not going to be solved by a single researcher in a single institution, it requires huge research networks and a team of researchers working together to find solutions for our time.”

The royal couple met with students of the CoLab for e-Inclusion and Social Innovation.

Digital societies

It was established in 2012 to enhance a more equitable, inclusive and just digital society.

This programme also sees PhD students from UWC and Vrije Universiteit Brussel travelling to each other’s countries while working towards their degrees.

“Digitalisation is a worldwide problem. So it makes a lot of sense to study it from an intern-continental and international perspective but also diversity is very important. And of course, the diversity of the university of the Western Cape and South Africa have inherently in them is a very rich source of our research and also we can learn from that in Brussels because also Brussels is becoming a more diverse and multicultural city,” says the University’s Vice Rector, Professor Jan Danckaert.

They hope that these partnerships will continue long into the future.

Professor José Frantz who is UWC’s deputy Vice Chancellor in the Research and Innovation division says, “We have a relationship that goes way back if you know our previous rector, prof Jakes Gerwel, and actually got his PhD from VUB and so we have relations since then with VUB and so this visit is actually a significant visit for us honouring both our previous rector as well as coming to acknowledge that the university of the Western Cape plays an important role in relations between Belgium and South Africa.”

A delegation of among others 26 Belgian scholars is currently also hosted at the university.