Auxilia Katongomara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
UNIVERSITIES have called for the revision of the legal frameworks that guide their operations in order to adapt to the new dispensation of industrialisation and technological innovation.
Vice chancellors say the “obsolete” legal instruments that define their operations are hindering the paradigm shift from being only academic institutions to industry incubating universities.
Speaking after a tour of universities in South Korea and Singapore, University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor, Professor Levi Nyagura, said most initiatives by institutions of higher education were being limited by legislation.
“A number of things have already been put in place, the basis of this new thinking, new orientation, new operational philosophy is already there but sometimes universities are constrained by obsolete legal instruments that sometimes define their existence and location in terms of this paradigm shift.
Sometimes you find people saying your Act says you are only supposed to teach and do outreach services and do research but I think what we now require is a revision of the mandate of universities in the country to explicitly indicate a new responsibility that is connected to the development, incubation and registration of productive enterprises because that orientation doesn’t exist right now,” he said.
Prof Nyagura said a lot still has to be done in local universities so that they fit into the operational model of research, innovation and enterprise.
“This paradigm shift requires the creation of an enabling environment both within the institution and externally. It also means we have to come up with legal frameworks that enable universities to dream and translate the dreams into things that benefit society and that way universities become relevant, they become true sources of wealth creation,” he said.
“We need a change of mindset not just among academics but also among those responsible for drafting legal instruments that govern the running of universities. Certainly the new thrust of wealth creation is a new dimension of universities in Zimbabwe which must be totally embraced if universities have to become totally relevant.”
“So universities probably look at themselves as repositories of knowledge which is now everywhere because of advances in 21st century information technology. We can no longer assume that is the main function of a university in the 21st century. It has since changed.
“What is clear is that universities we have visited in South Korea and Singapore have redefined their mandate and philosophy to align the two with the national development agenda and that I think is critical as opposed to running and maintaining universities as repositories of knowledge”.
Great Zimbabwe University Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo said universities need to redefine their mandate. “Legal framework needs revisiting in order to empower universities to be more effective in pushing the nation’s development agenda. Therefore, there is a need for universities to revisit their roles in society in order to justify the huge funding that goes into educating students,” he said.
Prof Zvobgo said universities are the cornerstone of development if the knowledge taught to students is used to improve the development and well-being of the country’s citizens.
The two Vice chancellors are part of a high level delegation led by Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo touring universities which have successfully incubated their institutions with industry in Asia and South America.