Tri-Continental (3C) Partnership

How it all started

The Tri-Continental (3C) Partnership is the trilateral partnership between the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the University of Missouri (UM) and Ghent University (UGent).

The partnership between the University of the Western Cape (South Africa) and the University of Missouri (US) has existed for over 35 years, while Ghent University and UWC have been engaging in collaborating for more than 20 years, first in the framework of the successful 10-year Programme on Dynamics of Building a Better Society (DBBS), a programme on research capacity-building funded by the Flemish government.

In 2013 the three universities decided to extend their bilateral connections into a trilateral partnership. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was then signed at the first trilateral meeting at UWC. As a follow-up, a very successful trilateral meeting was hosted by Ghent University in October 2015.

At the meeting in Ghent in 2015 some key domains for collaboration were agreed upon, as well as some emerging domains.

Initially therefore, 3CP involved the following research domains; in all of these domains the collaboration led to joint project applications, joint PhDs and joint publications: 

Key domains

  • Linguistics
  • Plant Sciences
  • Public Health 

Emerging domains

  • Astronomy
  • Neurosciences
  • Urban Planning
  • Doctoral Schools 

New directions

The Tri-Continental Partnership was forced to reinvent itself in 2020, 2021 and 2022. This gave rise to a number of new initiatives:

  1. In August 2020, a trilateral research call was launched: a Joint Call to Foster Academic Collaboration between UWC, Ghent University and UMissouri. In this context, funding was provided to support virtual research and educational collaboration. Eight trilateral proposals were submitted within this call and all of them were innovative and of high quality. They were all approved for funding. All of these projects were implemented in the course of 2021.
    Here is an overview:
    • Theatre Studies: “Knowledge Production and Creative Procedures in University Teaching and Research”
    • Psychology: “Capacity Development in Addictions and Quality of Life Research”
    • Biotechnology: “Optimisation of the biosurfactant IMBM-BS1 expression in Escherichia coli (E. coli)”
    • Geology: “Towards Virtual Field Work in Geology”
    • Dentistry: “The influence of the COV1D19 Pandemic in Dentistry: A Multicentre Survey”
    • Education: “A webinar series: Post philosophies, neuroatypicality and higher education”
    • Chemistry: “Electro-nanobody immunosensor chip for SARS-CoV-2 specific antigens”
    • Sociology: “Creating and Implementing an International Qualitative Methods Course”
  2. A similar trilateral call was launched in 2022 and based on this call the following projects were submitted – and largely funded:
    • Linguistics: “Understanding African migrations through the study of specialized vocabulary”
    • Psychology: “Addiction, recovery and quality of life: Cross-cutting perspectives from around the globe”
    • Dentistry: “A cross-case synthesis of curriculum design and delivery in periodontology: a tri-national report”

These lists clearly show that the trilateral collaboration is no longer limited to a small number of core domains, but that many research groups of Ghent University, UWC and UM are involved.

  1. In October 2020 the Tri-Continental Partnership hosted a Webinar Series with as title Race and Racism. This was a three-part Zoom webinar that covered the following topics:
    • Thursday 1 October: Race and the Psychic Life of Apartheid (UWC)
    • Thursday 15 October: Discussing Colonialism and Decolonisation in a Belgian Context (Ghent University)
    • Thursday 29 October: The Many Meanings of Thomas Jefferson (UMissouri)
  2. In March & April 2021, another Tri-Continental Webinar Series was hosted by the three partners, under the title Domestic Extremism and the Threat to Democracy. The following topics were covered:
    • Thursday 25 March: Domestic Extremism: From Oklahoma City to the Capitol Insurrection (UMissouri)
    • Thursday 8 April: Political Violence, Regional Conflicts, and the Threat to Democracy: Reflections from Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa (UWC)
    • Thursday 22 April: European far-right & populist parties: who are they and who are their supporters? (Ghent University)
  3. With the intention of giving the collaboration an extra boost (and in anticipation of physical meetings), 3CP organized a number of informal Zoom conversations in 2021 and 2022 between the three rectors of Ghent University, UWC and UMissouri. The three partners experienced these conversations as very stimulating: there was an informal exchange about the current corona situation, a state of affairs was given about the ongoing collaboration, and ways to expand and strengthen this collaboration were discussed.
  1. In early 2021, a Virtual Academic Exchange Agreement was signed between the University of Missouri and the University of Ghent. In time, the intention is to sign a similar agreement between Ghent University and UWC.

The futureUWC

In early 2022 the renewed Memorandum of Understanding between the three universities was revised and submitted to the three rectors for approval and signing. 

Finally, a joint 3CP conference is planned for March 2023, on the topic of Precision Medicine and Pharmacology (hosted by UWC). 

3CP is definitely there to stay…

Research output