Promoting Equitable Research Partnerships: SANORD Day in Bergen Explores Collaboration Between Nordic and Southern African Institutions

The Southern African – Nordic Centre (SANORD) held an open event in Bergen on April 19th, 2023, for researchers and students interested in learning more about and participating in the SANORD network as well as research collaboration between the University of Bergen (UiB), Western Norway university of Applied Sciences (HVL) and institutions in the Southern African region. SANORD is a non-profit university network committed to providing a forum to advance academic collaboration between the Nordic and the southern African regions.


The event kicked off with Umesh Bawa, Director of SANORD, providing details on SANORD’s work and an upcoming conference in September. The topic for this year’s conference is “The role of higher education in contributing to just and sustainable futures.” Bawa’s lecture focused on the historical ties between apartheid in South Africa and the important topic of decolonisation. He shared some personal stories about how apartheid was designed to keep people separated and how the law was used as a segregation tool. Bawa connected apartheid with the relationship between research institutions in the global north and global south, emphasising the need for a reconfiguration of Eurocentric theoretical underpinnings.


Erlend Eidsvik, Professor at HVL presented advantages of partnerships and the importance of increased engagement with leadership at different institutions. However, he also shared some challenges facing the SANORD network, including not enough support for early career researchers, not enough activities beyond conferences, and minimal balance for collaboration between institutions. This fed into the scheduled debate later in the day about decolonising epistemologies.



The panel debate, moderated by Tor Halvorsen, Associate Professor at UiB, focused on achieving equity in North-South partnerships and research production. During the panel discussion, Divine Fuh, Director of the Institute for Humanities Africa at the University of Cape Town and GRIP affiliate, emphasised the need to connect scientific production with human dignity in relation to the decolonial project. To that end, partnerships between north-south institutions should be on equal ground.


Overall, the SANORD day in Bergen provided an opportunity for researchers and students to learn about the SANORD network and research collaboration between Nordic institutions and institutions in the southern African region. The event also highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing the network in achieving equitable North-South partnerships and research production. GRIP is very proud to have participated in 2023 and look forward to engaging in future activities.