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New council must put university first

29 April 2014, 15:05

An induction workshop held at a venue just outside East London spelled the end of an era, and signalled the beginning of another as WSU Administrator Prof Lourens van Staden officially relinquished his powers as sole office-bearer in the University’s governing structure – the WSU Council.

After two and a half years in the hot seat, Van Staden handed the reigns over to the University’s newly-elected office-bearers at a Council induction workshop held from 23-24 April.

The session was used to give the incumbents an opportunity to engage and familiarise themselves with all aspects concerned with the University’s governance model and structure including its policies, rules and regulations.

It was also invaluable for creating a historical context for moving from the central governing model to the divisional governance model that is being rolled out in all aspects of University life. 

“These are indeed exciting times for WSU and I wish the Council the best in the forthcoming journey. I know it’s not going to be easy, but when confronted with those tough times, you must remember who you’re doing this for, the students. This is all for them,” said Van Staden.

Van Staden said those charged with this important responsibility must at all costs avoid making the same mistakes committed by those who governed the University in the past.

Hammering this point home, Van Staden was mindful in advising the new Council to guard against thoughts of using their newly-acquired statuses as a platform for self-enrichment.

“If you’re here looking for what you can gain from WSU, rather than looking at how you can best serve this wonderful institution, then you’re in the wrong place,” he added.

Interim Vice Chancellor and council member, Prof Khaya Mfenyana, said it was imperative that Council identify and augment niche areas that will set the University apart from the rest.

He said in addition to the current key academic focus areas of science, engineering,technology, business, education and other humanities, there was a concerted push to introduce agriculture owing to the University’s rural location/mandate.

“We’ve decided to introduce agriculture because it’s clear that the rural context cannot be fully addressed without programmes in agriculture and rural development. These will, therefore, be added to the other four focal areas,” said Mfenyana.

Mfenyana identified key challenges that the Council would need to tackle in order to achieve stability.

These included finance and change management that needed to be embedded in all University departments and units.

Mfenyana also cast a sharp eye on the often contentious issue of role clarification and its importance in avoiding the muddling of who must do what when it comes to Council.

“Council has to be clear on what a council does in a University. Management has to be clear on management roles. Furthermore, our students, as leaders of tomorrow, need to included on this journey of role clarification.

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