The University of Zululand (UNIZULU), on Monday, 12 February 2024, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI) situated in Russia.

The signing ceremony took place on the KwaDlangezwa Campus in the presence of a Russian delegation comprised of MEPhI and Rosatom staff and select UNIZULU Executive and senior management staff which included the deputy vice-chancellors for research and innovation as well as teaching and learning.

Signatories from the two parties were Professor Xoliswa Mtose, UNIZULU Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Dmitry Savkin, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at MEPhI.

This MOU will be in effect for a period of five years.

Professor Dmitry Savkin and Professor Xoliswa Mtose appending their signatures on a MOU geared towards forging a mutually beneficial relationship in the areas of education and training as well as research and innovation.

Through this partnership, the parties will “develop joint education and training programmes, conduct joint scientific research for the purpose of advancement of training highly skilled specialists, and will implement exchange of experience in the fields of mutual interest,” the MOU document reads.

It further details that the partnership will culminate in among other things:

  • the exchange of leading experts for delivering lectures, seminars, tutorials and consultations, and for scientific research;
  • organisation of student internships for practical training;
  • exchange of undergraduate and doctoral students for studying educational programs as coordinated by the parties and for development of educational research projects including graduation diploma/degree projects and papers;
  • the carrying out of joint scientific research on coordinated topics;
  • Coordination of scientific research and exchange of scientific results produced in mutually coordinated directions of joint scientific research;
  • Joint organisation of international scientific seminars, symposia and conferences;
  • Organisation of scientific research internships and professional skill upgrading courses for specialists.

Elated, Prof Mtose highlighted that the ceremony gave “expression to, among others, UNIZULU’s Strategic Goal 4 – to drive both UNIZULU research and innovation”.

She added: “Within this strategic goal, the following strategic objectives are of practical relevance. Number 1, increased research output and postgraduate throughput. Number 2, increase the number of staff with PhDs. Number 3, escalate industry related research innovation. Your visit and partnership with UNIZULU through the Department of Physics follows closely from the hosting of the annual SAIP last year. This is, in its own, a testimony of an institution that is comfortable punching beyond its way. The Department of Physics under the leadership of the Dean of the FSAE, Prof Lehloenya, as well as Prof Jili, should be commended. This wouldn’t be possible without an enabling environment by the University leadership, under Prof Kunene.”

UNIZULU Executive and senior management together with MEPhI and Rosatom delegates.

Prof Mtose underscored that the reciprocal nature of this partnership was particularly critical for the higher education sector which highly benefits from funds received from industries amid dwindling government financial support. These funds can be channeled to universities’ own research projects. Industry partners also gain immensely from higher education institutions as they have the capacity to conduct early-stage research which often gets shelved in industries due to operational demands.

“Universities that have forged closer relationships with industry have been able to give competitive advantage in the areas of expertise. To this end, UNIZULU is alive to the importance of being distinctive,” she affirmed.


The UNIZULU-MEPhI partnership comes as a result of another MOU the University signed with Rosatom Africa (Pty)Ltd through the efforts of erstwhile head of the Department of the Physics Department, Professor Thulani Jili. While implementing the said MOU, Dr Zipho Ngcobo, also from the Physics Department, expressed his aspirations to resuscitate the Masters in Nuclear and Materials Science (MaNuS/MatSci) programme to Dr Masamba Kah, Rosatom Nuclear Technology Education Africa Coordinator. Dr Masamba then linked UNIZULU with MEPhI’s Prof Dmitry Samokhin the head of Obninsk Nuclear Physics and Engineering. Conversations that ensued lead to the formation of a collaboration between the two parties.

  • Naledi Hlefane