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November 18, 2018

Listen to dons’ ideas on chancellor picks

UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga during a strike briefing at Kenyatta University on February 2, 2018. /COLLINS LANGAT
UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga during a strike briefing at Kenyatta University on February 2, 2018. /COLLINS LANGAT

University dons have proposed a change to the method of identifying and hiring heads of public universities. (see page 2)

They want more scrutiny and public participation in the recruitment of chancellors, vice-chancellors and university council members. They want these positions filled through a search committee that will recommend the suitable candidates for appointment. Why not, one would ask, in this era of democractisation of public institutions?

However, while these proposals are welcome, every precaution must be taken to avoid politicisation of the universities, or extending industrial action, student activism and other shenanigans to the leadership of academic institutions.

We have come a long way – from the President being the automatic chancellor of all public universities to the appointment of distinguished individuals to the position. However, it is doubtful whether all the individuals who hold the position of Chancellor in our universities are deserving of the honor.

Similarly, the appointment of vice-chancellors has been dogged by controversy as communities insist on a local holding the position to reflect local ownership. But a university, it has been argued, is universal by its nature and not subjected to local stakeholder interests.

Whether this motivated the dons’ proposal to change the current law or not, it deserves to be looked at critically alongside other best practices in the interest of better management of our public universities. The appointment of chancellors has become a sore that needs urgent attention.

Quote of the Day:

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

John Foster Dulles, The US Secretary of State died on May 24, 1959.

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