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Monday, 6 August 2012

Welcome back, second semester 2012

Welcome back!

This is a welcome back message for all students, professional staff and Faculty members at the start of the 2nd semester of the academic year 2012. I will record another message at the end of the semester.

First of all, I wish to thank you all for the trust you placed in me, and the manner in which you have supported the new management team. You made me and my wife Paulina feel especially welcome here, and allowed us, together with you, to start making a difference in Papua New Guinea.

I also thank the Chief Secretary and the Director General of the Office of Higher Education and the newly elected members of parliament, for the trust they have placed in my person and in the UNITECH community.

Let me indicate the three priority topics that the senior management team will be working on this semester and the next:
  1. first, a strategized approach to the necessary change and reform at UNITECH,
  2. second, improved financial management, and
  3. third better university governance through council reform.
1- The first priority: strategy. One of my roles as VC is as UNITECH's chief strategist. In this role, I am bound to uphold the Act, and ensure UNITECH can execute it's mission. UNITECH's mission is to provide teaching, research and community outreach of a high standard.

For all Faculty members, quality in teaching and research implies taking a disciplined and structured approach to teaching and assessment. For all others, quality means supporting UNITECH mission and operations. Regarding operations, we must remember that without committees UNITECH can not be governed.

It is important therefore the committee system be revived, and everybody contributes to decision making through committee work. We have to engage in continuous improvement of our quality management system, and measure progress towards our four strategic goals of:
  1. creating sustainable and feasible postgraduate programs in all departments,
  2. externalisation through contract teaching, research and consulting,
  3. fostering entrepreneurship, and
  4. achieving institutional accreditation for UNITECH, and professional accreditation for our programs.
Regarding this last goal, institutional accreditation is a very important strategic goal. Last month, all VC's signed the letter committing the universities to engage in institutional accreditation. This effort will be supported by the Office of Higher Education and AusAid.

Accreditation will be a major and long-term effort for all teaching and professional staff, and this is not the first nor the last time you will us hear talking about it. Embarking on institutional accreditation means we will be able to access the funding from the government and AusAid, which is reserved for this purpose.

Several departments have started working on accreditation by professional bodies, which is a similar type of effort, and will make institutional accreditation much easier. More importantly, it means in the future our graduates can be employed at a higher entry level, and access educational programs abroad more easily. Thus the UNITECH degree will acquire a higher value, and UNITECH will enhance and strengthen its reputation.

2- The second priority: improving financial management. As VC, I act as chief fundraiser, and chief representative of the institution towards the state and other stakeholders. The dependence of UNITECH on state finance creates a shortage of funding.

The 15% budget cut we got last year means each month we are spending over half a million Kina MORE than our budget allows us to do. All departments and sections are therefore invited to reconsider their activities and focus on increasing revenue and lowering costs.

Despite austerity measures, we need to continue to provide the services that students, staff and faculty members deserve. It is like repairing the air plane in full flight, but together we can do it.
A more coordinated approach to management has already brought results on the ground, while at the same time reducing wastage and increasing revenue.

Through our weekly senior management team meetings, bi-weekly Representatives Committee meetings and monthly meetings with all Heads of Departments we keep a tab on progress, and manage to stay focused on achieving results on the ground.

At this point, I wish to thank the members of the senior management team for the work they did last semester. I congratulate the DVC with his continuous efforts to mediate and broker peace on campus.
I also commend Pro VC Academic for having made good progress implementing quality assessment and for leading the E-Learning Team which will bring distance and blended learning at UNITECH to a higher level.

The acting registrar and bursar and their staff have made excellent progress organizing their sections more efficiently. We hope to have a new Registrar and Pro-VC Administration on board in the coming months so that our senior management team can more effectively help to change the course of UNITECH.

The project office deserves special mention for managing projects such as the installation of the ATM, the upgrading of the campus roads and the building of the new dormitory. Last but not least, I want to thank the security services, clinic, student services, and all other sections that work hard to improve life on campus for everybody.

Finally, the VC's office is making a tremendous effort with our Port Moresby office and Heads of Departments to improve relations with government departments, international donors, partner universities and private businesses with the purpose of improving and enhancing the reputation of UNITECH. During the last months, we have already signed several new memoranda of understanding with important partners and stakeholders, thus ensuring access to more resources.

3- The third priority: improving UNITECH governance. The challenges in governance reform we face at UNITECH are not unique or new to me, and I have observed and experienced how university governance evolves over time in different countries.

Ever since obtaining my doctorate in 1994, I have worked in higher education in low- and middle-income countries, as Faculty member, program coordinator, and as professional staff member. Since higher education is ever more a global industry and its mission universal, I found my experience in Latin America, Turkey, India, the USA and Europe is especially relevant and applicable here in Papua New Guinea.

The government in the National Executive Council approved last year the Independent Review of the PNG University system - the Namaliu Garnaut report - which for over 1 year now forms the basis of higher education policy. The Review contains two principal messages: first the need for smaller University councils, and secondly a focus on quality of teaching.

Those Council members and executives opposing these policies got themselves into so much trouble the last semester. This is lamentable, but they have nobody else to blame but themselves. We invite them now to stop resisting and attacking the UNITECH community. After myself taking over as VC on 7 February 2012, the university has massively chosen for change. Now, we need to continue to work together to achieve it.

A number of governance and management issues need to be sorted out this semester. Fortunately, we know where we are going. We have a Vision 2030, and are working on a strategic plan by creating a balanced scorecard. There are clear government policies, and several external reports on UNITECH written by independent bodies which provide us guidance.

Last semester, we had another external evaluation. The report of the mediation team will be released in the coming weeks, and make specific recommendations pointing the way forwards. We need to proceed in implementing all these recommendations, and not let us be overwhelmed by details, or overcome by delays.

I would like to commend the UNITECH community for being patient, and working through issues the UNITECH way: without violence, without throwing stones, by dialogue and negotiation. The Chief Secretary and Director General of the Office of Higher Education have come out publicly in the national newspapers, saying that the reform at UNITECH is an internal governance issue which must be resolved quickly. Both have also publicly confirmed my position as UNITECH's Vice-Chancellor, and given me the chance to achieve results with my team, during my first term of 4 years.

Now to summarize. First, UNITECH's strategy focuses on improving the quality of teaching and research, which will lead to international, institutional and professional accreditation. Our students and graduates deserve this. Secondly, we need to reduce costs and find other ways to raise revenue. Hard choices need to be made, and we ask for your cooperation and understanding. Thirdly, we need to work together in order to achieve council reform in less than 2 months, so as not to endanger the continuous operation of the University.

UNITECH deserves a Council that can drive strategic change, and can truly hold management accountable, thus providing the necessary checks and balances.

As Vice-Chancellor I am not strong, smart or wise enough to implement all these changes on my own. Fate has given me the opportunity to make a difference here at UNITECH, together with you.

I know there is no limit what a focused management team, a supportive university community, and a contributing state and other partners can achieve. When I was in Turkey in 2009 at Kocaeli University, I witnessed how in less than 10 years a complete university could be rebuild after being flattened by an earthquake.

When we continue on this course together, I am convinced that in 3 years time, the learning environment and the management of UNITECH will be much improved.

Together we can do it, and indeed make UNITECH fly.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the 'welcome back message'. I totally agree that together we can indeed make UNITECH fly


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