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What qualifications does a vice-chancellor need?

August 7, 2011

The Mail and Guardian (M&G) this week (Aug 5 to 11 2001) reports the story of the appointment of Johnny Molefe as the vice-chancellor of Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), despite his having a dodgy doctorate (p14) and carries a full-page advertisement by the university explaining their actions (p 19). The story goes that the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) mistakenly recognised his doctorate of business administration from St George University International, but later withdrew their recognition. The Council of TUT selected him, initially unaware that the doctorate was questionable. After the qualification was discredited, they elected to go ahead with the appointment, after taking legal advice. In justifying their decision the TUT Council argue that Molefe’s degree was completed before SAQA was established and, according to a spokesperson, Molefe’s dissertation has since been assessed by other respected institutions to be “of PhD standard”, but the council is “no longer seriously denying” that St George University International is “highly questionable”.

This story raises a question for me that is not being addressed in the press coverage: What are the appropriate qualifications for the vice-chancellor of a university of technology?

It worries me that nowhere in the coverage of this appointment or in the university’s comment on it, has there been discussion of the ways in which Molefe might actually be qualified to lead the Tshwane University of Technology. I would expect to hear what his other degrees are and, more importantly, what his experience is. Managing a university of the size of TUT requires considerable depth of management experience, in addition to academic competence. With some 60 000 students enrolled, TUT takes care of the education of around 8% or 9% of all the students in public higher education. I would feel more comfortable with his appointment if I knew what he had managed before and why his experience qualified him to steer such a large institution which plays such a significant role in the lives of individual students and in the future of the country. TUT suffers from high failure rates, as does much of public higher education. I’d like to know how Molefe is qualified to manage this large organisation, to improve the quality of education and to ensure more successful students. This to me is far more important than whether or not he has a doctorate.

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From → Higher Education

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