UFH opens for the new academic year

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In an overcrowded Science Auditorium on the Main Campus in Alice, the University of Fort Hare marks the official opening of the 2017 academic year with the new Vice Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu at its helm to help find new direction and improve its standing as Fort Hare enters its new century. Prof Buhlungu, a highly decorated scholar and Professor of sociology and former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities from the University of Cape Town did not mince his words in pointing out critical areas the Fort Hare community need to engage on, the solid foundation to build on and the context to mark the 2017 academic year.

The new VC sang praises of his predecessor, Prof Mvuyo Tom claiming he had laid a solid foundation “for us to build a future” and that he has inherited a stable institution.He urged people to honor the transformational values that would take the university to greater heights some of which are excellence, innovation and integrity. The context in which 2017 should be taken should be the core performance of the school system in order to improve on the province’s poor matric results, poverty and inequality that continue to grow especially from where the university draws its students and staff. He also touched on the existing turmoil in the higher education sector which is due to the rising costs of education as a result of underfunding, the competitive nature of higher education which at some point leads into the reluctance of top academics and students to come to Fort Hare as well as the decay in the local government environment that impacts directly on staff and student performance.

 Despite all these UFH should build and continue from the smooth 2016 academic year, the strong tradition of dialogue amongst stakeholders, consistent improving of the financial situation, the strong performance in teaching and research, the refurbishment of student residences and construction of the student’s village. However, more still needs be done and the new Faculty of Health Sciences.

 He urged staff and students to dispel the perception that UFH is a struggling poor university and should not rest on its history but be the best in what is considered by the job market.

The VC invited the Fort Hare community to a debate, a move that received much appreciation from the audience. He  also pointed out a number of deficiencies that he has observed, amongst them being Marketing and Communication as the weakest link that “has got to change”, the physical outlook of the Alice campus, contracts and service providers, ethics of service -  clients should be served with dignity and respect -, productivity of academics, including the positioning of our research and visibility in the national discourse, very weak alumni relations, fragmentation and duplication as a result of the multi- campus model and UFH as a catalyst  for development needing organic community links and collaborations.