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"Let us build a Unisa we are proud of"

Unisa’s Extended Management is meeting over two days to review the institution’s plans for the 2021 academic year. Setting the tone in her opening address, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Unisa, conveyed a need to constantly rethink and reinvent. Referring to Unisa’s founding years, she said: "In its origin, Unisa started with an industrial-era system which was connected to the post office system. In the current conjuncture, however, the industrial system has shifted to digital systems that are connected to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This requires us, as a university, to rethink who we are. We should be asking ourselves if we are agile, relevant and adhering to our mandate."

The VC emphasised that it has now become important for the university to constantly enquire and reflect on how it projects itself as a university. "Unisa led other universities in the country through its response to the open, distance and eLearning education system," said LenkaBula. "It is only now that this system is becoming a modality for other universities."

As it stands, however, higher education, like many industries, is going through a transition. Institutions of higher education face a number of challenges that call for a shift in the manner in which they conduct their business. Since her appointment, the VC has placed strong emphasis on the need to reinvent, reshape and regenerate.

The Extended Management Lekgotla aims to analyse Unisa’s strategies, which need changing in this historical moment of the global pandemic that has disrupted systems, economies and higher education. "This," LenkaBula asserted, "is important to do because Unisa’s modality has been normative as the only player in the system. Given the disruption, however, it has become critical to analyse the threats we face as a university. For us the threats are many because our modality is not only claimed by the higher and basic education systems, but also by corporates and industries that are now creating their own academies."

The VC stressed that this implies that Unisa needs to work hard to ensure that it has a distinctive, premium education, and areas of excellence that will catapult it to be a leader in the higher education system.

"Let us build a Unisa that we are proud of," concluded the VC, "a Unisa that is a resource, a partner and also an epistemic community that is committed to changing the world for the better. Let us also ensure that we create systems and work allocation models that are fair and enable development and change in the country and our institution."

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2021/04/22