Tech, South African university introduce joint master’s degree

Tech and the University of Pretoria in South Africa have introduced a new joint masters degree program in Water Resource Management. This is the first program of its kind between an American university and a South African university.

The new degree program was launched at the University of Pretoria three weeks ago, in time for its centenary celebration. The delegation from Tech included Anderson Smith, senior vice provost of academic affairs; Steve McLaughlin, vice provost of international initiatives; Stephen Fleming, director of commercialization services; and Aris Georgakakos, director of the Georgia Water Resources Institute.

Tech has been involved in water, energy, and environmental resources planning and management in Africa for over 25 years. Countries that have collaborated with Tech in these projects include Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

“The current world water crisis is largely due to governance issues. To combat the problem, we must improve the dissemination of water-related information throughout the world,” said Eugene Cloete, head of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology at the University of Pretoria.

The program will begin in February 2009. From that point on, Tech faculty will be teaching courses at the University of Pretoria in the summer, so as not to disrupt regular Tech courses. Students who apply to this program would have to be accepted by both Tech and the University of Pretoria. After completing their graduate studies, the students will be given a joint degree by both universities.

“Africa has tremendous water and environmental resources. I believe that water is the key to alleviating poverty in Africa,” Georgakakos said.

Water resources are intimately involved in the African economy. Agricultural activities that depend on a sufficient supply of water employ over 80% of the workforce in Africa. Development of the energy sector, another important element of African economies, relies on expansion of hydropower production in areas such as the Congo River Basin.

Apart from research and policy advising, Tech’s work in African countries has also focused on the need for qualified human resources to carry on the work in industrial and governmental sectors.

“This program is not only about the technical aspects of water management,” Georgakakos said. “It is equally focused on the institutions, ecosystems and policies that govern water resources. Only in this way can multifaceted challenges be overcome.”

The Georgia Water Resources Institute, established by public law in 1964, operates on the state, national, and international levels.

GWRI has been working closely with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to combat the current drought. In addition to regional initiatives, however, GWRI also regularly collaborates with agencies in California and elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad to provide policy advice on water management all over the globe.

“We hope that this program will make a difference in Africa and the world at large,” Cloete said.