• August 7th, 2020

The Unam we want

Columns, Comment
Columns, Comment

This week marked my first day in office as vice-chancellor of the University of Namibia. I am stepping in the shoes of an academic giant; a man of incomparable measure. I do so in humility. While it is an honour and privilege to serve you in this capacity, I am acutely aware that this role is also a major responsibility that goes beyond the confines of the office and Unam and that it requires all of us to function in unity of purpose. During my public presentation, I said we must now ready ourselves for administrative and academic transformation in order to guarantee the sustainability of our institution. My predecessors, Professor Peter Katjavivi and Professor Lazarus Hangula respectively, both of whom I offer my profound gratitude, have laid solid foundations upon which we will continue to build nationally impactful programmes across the country. My vision is for Unam to be a sustainable international hub of higher education training, research and innovation by 2030. We have less than 12 years to achieve this vision. This great vision, shared by many, becomes effective now. From today onwards everything we do must be aligned to this vision. It is my commitment to draw on our collective strength, intellect and courage to make this vision and its ensuing plans a reality. [This week] appointed a six-member team that will re-examine the restructuring report and find the best way forward for the institution in the context of the current economic situation but also taking into account global trends in structures and operations of academic institutions. They are expected to complete their work by the end of the month. Individually and collectively, we must now future-pace ourselves; imagine how Unam will look like by 2030, visualise it today and work together to achieve it by making necessary adjustments to how we conduct ourselves. I know, as you are, that our current challenges are many and complex. Graduate employability for example remains a challenge in some disciplines. For this reason, it is now time that we re-examine the relevance, quality, standards and cost-effectiveness of the academic programmes and administrative structures we have. We will do so taking into account the World Economic Forums’ Report titled “The Future of Jobs and Skills: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the fourth Industrial Revolution” in the context of this new vision. We must train for jobs of the future. So expect that in the coming months several decisions will be made to review curriculums but also align the curriculum objectives to our institutional strategic plan. Our curriculum must be revised to respond in ways that best suit our mission and future developmental objectives of this country. These realignments will enable Unam to reinforce and capitalise on our internal strength, eliminate redundancies and maximise our opportunities and the limited resources. We must have priority flagship programmes that are incomparable. We must train specialists. We must have consolidated faculties with strong unique schools. I am setting a new direction today and the rest of the issues must be agreed upon from bottom up. My ultimate objective is to create a stronger, more cohesive university that is ready to tackle complex 21st century challenges and maximise on the benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution. As you know, the resources needed for Unam to function optimally are rather limited and continues to diminish. For this reason, my office will ensure that we fully implement and operationalise Inceptus. Inceptus is a commercial entity wholly owned by Unam. The purpose of the company is to serve as a trading body for the commercialisation of Unam intellectual property, assets and business ventures. This entity should significantly contribute to the financial sustainability of Unam and reduce dependence on the state. I will soon issue a directive to make it clear what the functional focus of Unam Foundation is as opposed to Inceptus and UCCB. In addition, we now have some advice in the form of Financial Strategy Document for UNAM produced by our Faculty of Economic and Management. I am studying the proposal contained in that report carefully. Our challenges are many but we must perceive these challenges as opportunities to make a real difference to our institution and to the Namibian people. Higher education also has a unique role to both critique status quo but also to prepare individuals who can raise and function to the new challenges that society may face at any given time. We are the nation’s midwife, nursing the nation’s new born challenges as they emerge. To clarify this point, I’ll give an example. In 1963 the United Kingdom created a Task Force on Higher Education. Its report, The Robbins Report, states that universities were tasked with four functions, namely instruction in skills, the promotion of the general powers of the mind so as to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women, the search for truth and the transmission of a common culture and common standards of citizenship. Today we must ask ourselves, are we rising to these functions? The search for truth does not mean that we must play the role of opposition party. It means we must, and indeed should advance science for its own sake but we are also duty bound to be relevant and be the thought leaders in the country. While it is okay to pursue, for example, a study on the sexual behaviour of desert dung beetles we must also think about what society is grappling with in order to find relevant cues to questions of poverty, housing and food security, poor sanitation and so on. Universities have a role to advance knowledge without fear or favour. I stand for responsible academic freedom without fear or favour. I believe that universities are also for the public good. Therefore, I stand for a relevant university. * Professor Kenneth Matengu is the new Vice-Chancellor of University of Namibia (Unam), who took over this job on Wednesday this week. He made this (edited) remarks upon his official inauguration.
New Era Reporter
2018-08-03 09:35:48 | 2 years ago

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