NUL gets new boss

MASERU — Sharon Siverts (pictured), an American professor who survived a turbulent stint at the helm of the University of Botswana, is to be appointed vice-chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

The Lesotho Times understands that the decision to appoint Siverts will be announced at a university council meeting on Monday.

King Letsie III, the NUL chancellor, has consented to the recommendation to appoint her as vice-chancellor to replace Professor Adelani Ogunrinade who died last April. 

Siverts, who has 25 years experience in the tertiary education sector, is likely to start her challenging assignment early February following salary negotiations.

This paper understands that Siverts’ appointment came after Australian Professor Jill Slay, who had scored better in the interview, turned down the offer because she was not ready to start work in February as the council wanted.

Slay told the council that her contract as the dean of the research division of IT, engineering and the environment at the University of South Australia, was only due to end in November.

“In the end we settled for Siverts because she is equally good and has said she is willing to come as soon as possible,” said a council member who is privy to the intimate details about the recruitment.

But this paper understands that although she could not take up the position the council is planning to bring her in as a consultant to help the university establish a technology research centre that will offer postgraduate courses.

Slay has agreed to that arrangement, the source said. 

A holder of a Master of Science degree in Education from Ohio University in the United States, Siverts resigned from the University of Botswana in February 2003 after drama-filled years as the vice-chancellor.

She is credited with turning around the fortunes of the University of Botswana although her stint was characterised by student unrest. Critics questioned why she had been appointed ahead of other local candidates.

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

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

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

NUL council sources say the recruitment panel was impressed by her international exposure which they believe will help the institution raise funds for new courses and research.

Former NUL acting vice-chancellor Mafa Sejanamane and Professor Lebohang Moleko, a NUL alumni currently based in Eritrea, also applied for the job but did not make it. 

Siverts’ immediate task, council members say, is to revive the university and find ways of improving its finances which are currently shambolic.

She is also expected to come up with a vision to take the university forward.

NUL is currently facing a serious financial crisis caused mainly by poor management and failure to live within its means.

Apart from grappling with a M39 million budget deficit the university has also been forced to fund operations through a bank overdraft.

Staff and student unrests have also battered the university’s once squeaky clean reputation.  So has its failure to account for money it has received from the government over the past six years.

The council is also worried that the university’s curriculum is failing to meet Lesotho’s human resources needs.

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