Sunday, May 22, 2022

University of Botswana on a high-stakes transformation

The University of Botswana Vice Chancellor is excited about likely outcomes of a high-stakes transformation path that the university has adopted.

Professor David Norris arrived at the university some four years ago and was not altogether excited by the shape of things at the university.

He said what worried him most was the fact that University of Botswana was not financially sustainable.

He said the university continued to rely almost exclusively on a government subvention that was itself ever diminishing in size.

Another thing that he was not happy with was that there was not enough research happening at the university.

Additionally, the link between the university and business and also the industry was not strong enough.

Although the transformation will take a few years to be completed, there have been improvements that have included the University of Botswana’s position on the global rankings.

With that the university has seen a rebound in student numbers.

Professor Norris said the new strategy that the university will be adopting speaks to total transformation of the institution, including a change in culture and mindset.

“At the moment there are even concerns that we don’t answer phones at UB,” he said.

The envisaged end result is a High Performance Organisation.

The new transformation happened after a team of external consultants were invited to come and assess the current operations of the university.

“Analysis confirmed the basis for us to say we need a new direction. Change is a must,” said Professor Norris.

The transformation will usher in a new organization structure that will see University of Botswana transition to become a modern university.

“Worldwide government financial support for universities is on the decline. Universities need to commercialise consultancies. Professors and lecturers need to be able to attract research funding. That can only happen if the university becomes well known for various areas of research,” said Professor Norris.

He gave example the of Stellenbosch University in South Africa where he said close to 50 percent of all revenues are generated internally using university expertise.

“It is important for us as UB to ask ourselves how we can leverage on human capital we have and also on our internal resources,” he said.

The high-stakes transformation will see the university change its funding model and also increase Research and development – among other things.

“The country is talking about transition to knowledge based economy. This university is central to that. To actualize our goal of HPO [High Performance Organisation] we are at the moment gauging our readiness to change. We are conducting a change readiness assessment,” he said.

To be overhauled are such things like efficiencies, work ethic, processes and organisational structures.

The executive structure will change in look and shape. And that will cascade to faculties.

He pointed out that owing to Covid-19 pandemic the macro environment on which the university operates has totally changed.

“As such we have an opportunity to support government initiatives.”

He observed that University of Botswana has continued to make strides on global rankings.

UB is currently ranked 358 out of 798, he said.

The university is ranked 21st in Africa.

And the hope is that with those improvements, business and industry will come along.

“Research and innovation bring financial stability,” he said.

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