Universities from wine-producing countries meet in Stellenbosch

Among those attending the VitaGlobal training workshop in Stellenbosch were, from left, Dr Erna Blancquaert, SU Department of Viticulture and Oenology, and SU coordinator of the project; Professor Hester Klopper, SU vice-rector: strategy and internationalisation; Elizabeth Colucci, project manager of VitaGlobal at OBREAL; Professor Joan Miquel Canals, University of Rovira I Virgili, Spain; Anisa Kahn, SU International; and

Stellenbosch University’s Department of Viticulture and Oenology hosted a training workshop for academics and international relations staff from 12 universities in wine-producing countries in Europe and South America, as well as South Africa.

They are part of the international VitaGlobal project that brings together universities from diverse geographic regions, each offering programmes in viticulture, oenology or food science.

The academics in the consortium are writing and implementing new modules with a much broader international scope. In turn, staff from the different international offices are forging alliances and sharing strategies towards greater internationalising teaching.

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, VitaGlobal was launched in 2019. The lead institution is the University of Rovira I Virgili in Spain.

It has already seen members of the network meeting in Argentina, Portugal and Chili.

According to Elizabeth Colucci, project manager of VitaGlobal at OBREAL (Global Observatory – Knowledge, Innovation and Development) the fields of food science and viticulture were chosen because of their importance to local agri-economic development.

In attendance at the workshop in Stellenbosch were academics and staff from international relations from Stellenbosch University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), the University of Rovira I Virgili (Spain), Talca University (Chili), the University of Chili, the University of the Republic of Uruguay, Asociació* de Universidades Grupo Montevideo (Uruguay), the National University of Jujuy (Argentina), the National University of Cuyo (Argentina), the University of Chilecito (Argentina), Bologna University (Italy), Bordeaux University (France), Porto University (Portugal), Iakob Gogebashvili Telavi State University (Georgia) and the Georgian University of Technology (Georgia).

The project allows them to write and produce modules in viticulture and oenology together, to learn from each other and to share lecturing capacity where appropriate.

A combination of blended learning methods, as well as information and computer technology are used.

The modules focus on wine tourism, sustainability in viticulture, economic sustainability and wine marketing, new tendencies in microbiology, sparkling wine production and sensory analysis.

Each of these modules are coordinated by one of the European partners. They will also assist with the implementation of it. The module topics were agreed upon after an assessment of needs were done at a previous meeting.

The first of the modules will be piloted at the University of Chili, after which partner universities will endeavour to implement at least one of the modules in the framework of an existing programme.

This will be done with coaching, support, and potentially collaborative teaching by the coordinator of the module.

Most of the universities in the VitaGlobal project have in the past had little to no meaningful cooperation between each other. It has already seen greater collaborations between institutions from different regions, and even within countries.

“It’s more than just an initiative in which academics from different countries and regions of the world writes study material together. It also provides the opportunity for us to use each other’s examples in our own teaching, to network, and to start working together on other projects, such as joint research initiatives,” says Dr Erna Blancquaert of the SU Department of Viticulture and Oenology, and Stellenbosch University’s coordinator of the VitaGlobal project.

She says the three-day workshop hosted in Stellenbosch was the first training initiative of its kind presented by VitaGlobal. The theme was “internationalising the curricula”. Aspects such as blended learning, strategies to use with the future of teaching in mind and increased internationalisation was discussed, along with ways to leverage ICT such as online communication and the use of e-assessments in doing so. Support services and training that are available for lecturers and support staff, or that needs to be developed, were also discussed.

For more information, visit https://www.vitaglobalproject.org/