THE top decision-making body at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last week conducted interviews for the vacant post of vice-chancellor.
At least four candidates had been short-listed for the top job. The new vice-chancellor is expected to take over the reins in January next year.
The appointment of the vice-chancellor has traditionally been a monopoly of the council and the minister of education and training.
The exclusion of other key stakeholders in the decision-making process for the post of vice-chancellor has been to the detriment of the university.
We need a more inclusive process in the recruitment of the chief executive officer of the university.
The public must have a greater say in who is appointed NUL vice-chancellor.
It can play that role either through parliament or civil society groups who can offer a platform for debate.
Such a process could help resolve the serious leadership crisis that has beset the university over the past two decades.
There have also been allegations of patronage and government micromanagement of the affairs of the university to the detriment of the institution.
The biggest problem at NUL appears to be one of poor leadership.
We also have crumbling infrastructure at the campus.
This article seeks to initiate vigorous debate on the calibre of vice-chancellor whom we want at NUL.
First, the new vice-chancellor should critically look at the issue of the teaching environment at NUL.
He should also look at the aspect of research and its influence on national policy.
He should also look at the international mixture of students and staff.
The teaching and learning environment is a key element for every university.
The university must ensure that teaching materials are made available and that the university employs competent and professional lecturers.
These aspects impact on the learning environment.
The new vice-chancellor should provide incentives to motivate staff.
He will need to undertake a lot of fundraising for the institution to sustain a good learning environment.
The new vice-chancellor’s mandate would be to act as the chief executive of the university and fundraise for the institution. Relying too much on the government’s subvention fund would be a clear sign of incompetence.
The situation at NUL needs to change drastically with everyone pulling in one direction.
The current infighting needs to stop.
At present we have trade unions such as the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) which have ceased to be part of the search for a solution.
The union behaves like an opposition, criticising every idea that management comes up with.
This situation is unhealthy for students.
Lutaru might have genuine concerns but their actions sometimes leave people with serious questions about their role.
It is well known that the research output at NUL has declined significantly over the years.
Research is a key element of any university.
Universities are often judged on the basis of their research output.
We have brilliant academics at NUL who should be spearheading such research.
But these lecturers have opened up their own private consultancies and much of their energy is now spent on these private endeavours.
These academics often argue that there are no sufficient resources from NUL to support their research projects.
But these critical issues are never raised for debate by Lutaru in most of their petitions.
There are only very few lecturers within Lutaru who are willing to corroborate with civil society groups in research projects.
A lot of initiatives by non-governmental organisations require research.
These include issues of human rights, environment and good governance, among many others.
There is just no political will on the part of Lutaru to establish such partnerships with NGOs.
The new vice-chancellor must create an enabling environment to allow this collaboration between lecturers and civil society.
He will also need to improve the exchange programmes between NUL and other foreign universities.
It is these exchange programmes that have put the University of Botswana and the University of Swaziland ahead of NUL despite these two universities being relatively younger than our own varsity.
It is these issues that the new vice-chancellor must deal with to restore credibility to our once proud university in Roma.