The Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, says the proliferation of higher education institutions in the country must not be seen as a challenge to the University of Botswana but an opportunity to graduate from being a primarily undergraduate teaching university to a postgraduate teaching and research-intensive institution.
Professor Norris who assumed duty as UB’s sixth Vice Chancellor on December 1, 2017, said this during his inaugural staff address at the University on February 2, 2018. He said as a high performance organization, UB must develop the ability to adapt quickly to changes and to continuously improve and reinvent its core capabilities.
“As a University, we must have in place structures and processes that are sufficiently flexible and agile to respond timeously to external forces,” he noted. As such, Professor Norris said UB must not be scrambling for students, particularly at undergraduate level. “Why should we be competing at a lower level when we have infrastructure and intellectual capital to move a step up to a new area where we can have the playing field all to ourselves?” he asked.
Consequently, Professor Norris said as an imperative, UB must, in casting its net wider, focus on developing post-graduate programmes that were not ‘localised’ but could draw regional and international attention.
Regarding UB’s internationalization programme, the Vice Chancellor observed that it did not only entail developing programmes that could attract foreign students and staff but also means forging collaborations with other premier universities around the world, besides offering joint degree programmes. It is also about forging collaborative and joint research projects as well receiving their visiting scholars to our University, he said.
Professor Norris further emphasized the right mix of staff, noting that any premier university with truly international ambitions had to be open to diversity of its staff so that there is a certain proportion of expatriate staff in its staff establishment.
Being a business minded person, the Vice Chancellor is also keen on translating UB’s intellectual capital into business. “The technologies created through our research activities could be further developed into marketable products and services for societal benefit. We must offer attractive and marketable short courses. This will generate income for the University while at the same time doing public good as this will be fulfilling our mission of expanding and enhancing access to education” said Professor Norris.
However, he advised that being entrepreneurial should not only be confined to revenue generation but should also mean infusing entrepreneurship education into academic programmes.
Professor Norris challenged staff to strive for the best because as a national asset, UB is unique in that there is public pressure on the University to always address national expectations. Therefore, he said, as one of the major Botswana institutions, UB was viewed as a crucial national asset that should address policy priorities.
UB, he added, should be a mirror through which Batswana saw themselves, hence it must strive to enrich their lives by coming up with relevant and appropriate research that improved their livelihoods. The starting point is to make the best use of the human capital resident in this institution.