NUL steps up search for vice-chancellor

Keiso Mohloboli

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) on Monday offered professors Nqosa Mahao and Mafa Sejanamane — the two candidates shortlisted for the position of vice-chancellor — public platforms to presents their visions should they be offered the post.

The two men were asked to speak on the topic: “Financing the National University of Lesotho’s Education and Significance of the University Generated Income in Achieving Liquidity Stabilisation and Reliability as an Anchor for Teaching and Research”, before engaging the public.

The university has been without a vice-chancellor since American professor, Sharon Siverts left the post last year.
In his presentation, Professor Mahao said the university was facing many challenges constraining its growth and ability to respond to changing environments, which he highlighted had “corroded” its brand. The challenges, he added, included a poor cost-recovery business architecture and academic project that had failed to respond effectively to societal needs.
“The university is currently going through a reputation-crisis which, over the years, has resulted from disconnect with stakeholders and the institution’s inability to project a positive self-image,” Professor Mahao said.
He also indicated the challenges had seen the university’s ranking going down both regionally and globally, over the years.
“In Africa, the NUL ranking is at 141 and globally on 7260.
“The only way to address the challenges is to have a well-resourced, soundly-managed, and highly-performing institution staffed by happy and inspired academic staff.”

In an interview following his presentation, Professor Mahao said the university must “reclaim” its share of government’s bursary budget, while also repositioning itself in several strategic directions.
“In the 2013/2014 financial year, the National Manpower Development Secretariat budgeted M661,6 million for bursaries but NUL’s share is only M107,742 million.
“A total of M500 million flowed out of the country and was split among institutions in South Africa, other African countries and overseas, while NUL derived a mere M150, 000 from international students in 2013/2014, which should not be the case.”

He also said it was time the university “revitalised” undergraduate programmes that the university has discontinued over the years.
“The university should vigorously develop and grow postgraduate programmes to at least 20 percent of our enrolment in the next 10 years in all fields of offering,” he added.
“Should I be appointed the vice-chancellor, I will leverage sources by institutionalising administrative charges on all project funds handled by the university, professionalise the management of students’ residences and implement effective cost-recovery.
“I will definitely restructure and strengthen returns on investment from NUL consuls, endorse Lesotho’s ambassadors and high commissioners as the university’s friends and fundraisers.
“I will also establish an alumni office to stimulate the alumni as a resource for university activities and as brand champions and source of support,” he added.
On his part, Professor Sejanamane, who is the current acting vice-chancellor, said the decrease in government funding had brought about “creative financial strategies” at the NUL.
“Universities in Africa, Europe and America have adopted the same strategies and this made an impression on me that I built a sustainable financing strategy for NUL.
“The foundation of viability and sustainability of the university’s business must be based on earning its own funds as a primary source of income.
“The university’s fee structure should be urgently reviewed to a level where the cost of teaching a student is covered by fees paid,” he said.

Prof Sejanamane also said the mandate of the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS) should be changed to an open and distance-learning centre “to increase our tuition income”.
He further said the expertise of the university’s staff was “the most important resource” in increasing its income. According to Professor Sejanamane, the university needs to establish a long-term plan such as the formation of a NUL Foundation.

Analysing the presentations, a member of the audience said the university needed both professors.
“If one is appointed vice-chancellor, one should be made pro vice-chancellor. Professor Mahao is a charismatic, influential and open-minded leader who does not fear engagement.
“On the other hand, Professor Sejanamane is a hardworking leader who makes things happen. He cannot leave issues unattended, and makes follow-ups.”

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