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Who will be NUL’s next VC?

Staff Reporter

MASERU — An American professor who survived a turbulent stint at the helm of the University of Botswana is leading the race to become the next vice-chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

The Sunday Express can reveal that Professor Sharon Siverts is top of the four professors that have been shortlisted for probably the country’s most precarious job.

The other three are Professor Jill Slay of Australia, former NUL acting vice-chancellor Professor Mafa Sejanamane and Professor Lebohang Moleko, a former NUL lecturer currently based in Eritrea. 

Thirteen candidates applied for the job.

The four have already gone though a psychometric test, oral test and public presentation.

A psychometric test measures knowledge, ability, attitude and personality traits.

Organisations use it to see if a candidate is fit for the job as well as the broader corporate culture.

Sources close to the selection panel say Siverts, a renowned educationalist with 25 years of experience in tertiary education administration, is leading the race for NUL’s top job left vacant after former vice-chancellor Professor Adelani Ogunrinade died in April this year.

Siverts, who holds a Master of Science degree from Ohio University in the US, resigned from the University of Botswana in February 2003 after drama-filled years as the vice-chancellor.

She is however credited with turning around the University of Botswana during her five-year stint although some of her changes sparked student unrest.

Some questioned why she had been appointed ahead of other local candidates.

After he appointment in February 1998 Siverts abolished the posts of registrar and bursar.

Her decisions to privatise the bookshop and other services triggered protests from students but she prevailed.

During her stint the number of students at the university increased from 7 000 to 12 000. 

Sources say officials on the NUL recruitment panel were impressed by what she did at the University of Botswana. 

One source said most of the panellists were also attracted by her connections in the international academic and corporate world.

“They think she will be able to raise the research money that NUL needs at the moment,” said the source close to the panel this week.

“They also like the fact that she is an outsider who is not tainted by the politics of NUL.”

Slay is the second favourite candidate for the job, the source said.

She is a professor of forensic computing and currently works as a dean of research in the division of IT, engineering and environment at the University of South Australia.

Slay has extensive teaching experience in the tertiary sector and at postgraduate level.

She is currently supervising 12 PhD students with four others recently completed, according to the University of South Australia’s website.

Slay has supervised more than 40 cross-disciplinary honours and coursework masters students in their theses and projects, the website says.

The source said the panel was impressed by her vision for distance and e-learning.

“The university is very much interested in reducing its cost burden by having more students pursuing their degrees away from the campus,” the source said.

“Slay’s vision could provide a thrust for movement in that direction.”

Moleko is a diplomat who is currently based in Eritrea.

He holds a doctorate in Physics from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

He was an associate professor of physics and head of department at NUL.

His vast experience as a diplomat and an academic impressed the selection panel, the source said.

Sejanamane is the former acting vice-chancellor of NUL where he is currently teaching.

His knowledge of the culture at NUL is quite important, the source said.

Meanwhile the Sunday Express has a copy of an internal memo circulated to NUL council members clearly stating the attributes of the university’s next vice-chancellor.

Below are some of the attributes that the university is looking for in the person who will lead NUL for the next five years, according to the memo:

? Must understand relationships between academic planning and financial planning.  No more strategic plans without a business plan,

? Must lead NUL from the front in taking hard decisions,

? Must be able to work with the government of Lesotho without political friction,

? Humble, not arrogant. Sees the job as being driven by the need of Lesotho for quality highly trained manpower and not for the personal benefits of its workers,

? Communicator and listener,

? Realises “The best manure is the boot of the farmer”,

? Need not necessarily be a professor or hold a PhD.  Just the best person for the job.

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