Thursday, October 22, 2020

Professor Fako fights to preserve use of title “University”

University of Botswana (UB) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Thabo Fako has pleaded with legislators to protect and jealously guard against the trivial use of the name ‘university.’ 

He said that is the case with the army and the police. Prof. Fako was speaking recently at the university’s gymnasium which was officially opened by President Ian Khama.

Prof. Fako argued that protecting the title ‘university’ by law would inspire public confidence in higher education. He reiterated that there was need for a legislation that specified rigorous criteria and procedures by which an organization may use the title ‘university.’

He argued that such intervention would be an important and timely development. He said that university along with other major national institutions, such as the national army and the police force, were regarded everywhere as an integral part of the core institutions of a sovereign state therefore the permission to use the title ‘university’ must not come willy nilly. 

‘In a nation-state, private security companies have a legitimate role in the national economy. However, they are not permitted to use the title ‘army’ or ‘police’,” he said. 

In a veiled attack to other tertiary institutions, he said while they have a legitimate place in the practical, technical, vocational and professional fields, they must go through stringent processes to allow them to use the title ‘university’ and the state must jealously guard against the use of the title ‘university’ and ensure that it is reserved for the most rigorous exercise of the mind on big questions of national and global importance. Prof. Fako also dismissed the notion that a university was a vocational, technical and professional institution maintaining that a university ought to produce graduates with intellectual abilities that should enable them to fit and adapt in a broad spectrum of jobs. He spoke in reference to the blame that has been put on the university that it produces half-baked graduates who are not ready for employment. 

Meanwhile, none of the local tertiary institutions made it to this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The rankings were generated from five pillars, each of which represents a key area of higher education excellence. The pillars examined are teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook.

Academics have attributed the poor performance of local tertiary institutions in international rankings to insufficient research funds, lack of academic freedom, low enrolment of post graduates and failure to attract international students.

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