UJ, Ben Gurion continue water studies
Johannesburg - Researchers from the University of Johannesburg and Israel's Ben Gurion University were collaborating on water purification studies, UJ said on Friday.
UJ's senate earlier this year decided to terminate relations with the Israeli institution after prominent academics and students called for an end to the "apartheid-era relationship".
Civil society and the Congress of SA Trade Unions chorused the calls, demanding severing ties due to BGU's "direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation" of Palestine.
The decision by UJ to cut ties was taken after over 12 months of deliberation.
UJ deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib on Friday said the senate decision had allowed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions to lapse, cutting broad ties between the two.
However, this did not prevent individual researchers from working together.
"The institutional MOU says we'll have relationships... what this is, is an agreement where two researchers have decided to continue their research.
"There is a difference," he said.
The agreement was signed on Friday.
According to statement on UJ's website, its scientists along with scientists from Ben Gurion, from Belgian institution, the Universiteit Gent and the University of California signed a contract to pursue research collaboration on water purification.
"This collaboration was approved and co-signed by the designated authorities of all the four participating universities," the statement read.
A link to another statement followed, by UJ vice chancellor and principal, Ihron Rensburg - on the university's views on academic freedom.
"The University of Johannesburg strongly upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish," it read.
Rensburg said the signing of the contract reinforced UJ's commitment to academic freedom.
Habib, writing in the Business Day after the senate decision, made it clear that the decision was taken to allow the MOU to lapse but the institution would "allow the science to happen as and when individual academics wanted it to".
"The resolution also made it clear academics and researchers are entitled to continue their research engagements with BGU if they so desire," he wrote.
"We view this as part of their academic freedom, a constitutional right we actively support and defend."
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies welcomed the agreement, saying it was pleased that scientists from Belgium and United States had joined the research programme.
"Such global co-operation between acknowledged experts in their fields is in the best tradition of non-partisan academic collaboration, whose fruits can only benefit our society as a whole," it said in a statement. "It represents a crucial upholding of the principle of academic freedom."