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NUL to wait longer for VC

Staff Writer

 MASERU — The National University of Lesotho (NUL) will not have a new vice-chancellor until next year.

That’s because the university’s council and senate are yet to decide on the scope of duties for the new vice-chancellor. 

In the meantime a special committee of three council members and three senate members has been set up to decide the qualities that the next vice-chancellor must have and his or her role at the university.

The consultations are likely to continue until towards the end of the year when the post is expected to be advertised.

The advert will be required to run for a period of six weeks before the university shortlists possible candidates to be interviewed for the post.

The committee is supposed to consult “widely” with stakeholders and the government on how they want the university to be transformed.

“What comes out of that consultation process will determine the kind of person we want to lead the university,” said a council member who spoke to the Sunday Express this week.

The consultation process is likely to take several months before it is completed.

But the council member said the committee already had a preliminary list of the issues they expect the new vice-chancellor to tackle urgently.

Top on the list of these challenges is the university’s serious financial woes.

The senate and council are worried that NUL continues to rely heavily on government funding which is already drying up as the state grapples with reduced revenues and mounting obligations.

They are worried that as the government continues to cut its budget the university might soon be forced to survive on a shoe-string budget or to reduce its intake.

“We are worried that unless we get alternative sources of funding soon the university might struggle to stay afloat,” the council member said.

The council wants to raise more funds by attracting international students, research programmes and assistance from aid organisations.

“But to do this we must raise the profile of the institution, improve the quality of education and work on improving our governance and accountability systems which are shambolic,” he said.

“Unless we sort out these problems we are not going to get grants for research and development aid.”

Apart from the cash squeeze the council is also worried how the money that comes from the government grant is used. 

There is concern that 82 percent of the government allocation is currently being used for staff salaries.

The remaining 18 percent has to be shared between infrastructure development, curriculum building, library, research and students’ welfare.

“The point is that the crucial problems that hinder proper learning are neglected because there is no money,” he said.

The new vice-chancellor, the committee believes, is supposed to help transform NUL to make it relevant to the challenges of Lesotho.

There is talk in the council and senate about abolishing degrees that are considered “out of sync with the needs of Lesotho or are not urgently needed”.

“The vice-chancellor must be able to immediately start training doctors, engineers, veterinary scientists and tourism specialists,” the council member said.

“These are the skills we need urgently. We need banking and insurance experts urgently.

“The university has to be relevant to the needs of this country. Currently it’s not really delivering much value.”

The official said the council and senate are also worried about the “fractious and poisoned relations among the stakeholders at the university”.

“We are worried that everyone is fighting each other,” he said.

“Lecturers and management are fighting. Students are fighting the management. The academic staff feels neglected.

“The atmosphere at the university is toxic and the poisoned atmosphere has crippled the university.”

The new vice-chancellor, he said, must be able to change the culture at the university.

“Currently everyone is pulling in different directions,” he said.

“There is no unity of purpose. The university is chaotic.

“Little learning is happening. The university is producing poor graduates.

“Sponsors are shunning us and the government is not happy with the way things are being run.”

He said the committee dealing with the appointment of the vice-chancellor has decided to consider local, regional and international candidates for the post.

The new vice-chancellor will replace Professor Adelani Ogunrinade who died in April this year.

Ogunrinade, a Nigerian academic, was appointed the university’s vice-chancellor in December 2006.

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