Vice-Chancellor’s first address to staff

15th March 2018

 

Dear colleagues,

Our journey together has begun. We are now almost three months into it and already we have a good sense of what it will look like. Allow me to use this afternoon to outline some of the most pressing issues. These are the issues that we in the Executive, colleagues and students are labelling as the imperatives. On a second note, I would like to share with you our larger plan.

I hope that my intervention will ultimately stimulate your thinking and instigate further positive and meaningful engagement. This is not really a meeting of confrontation, instead, I am introducing a new approach to visioning in that I set the scene and then allow you to discuss with colleagues how you believe the journey should look like in reality. I am pleased to indicate that we have structures in place for people to lodge grievances, meet the respective authorities and ultimately meet me for some serious and more personal discussions. Please do use these structures; rest assured that we are constantly evaluating our protocols and practices.

Throughout this assembly, I would like colleagues to focus and engage with one general theme: Why us? Why would a student decide to join us? More importantly, I would like you to come up with at least three reasons why we should encourage students to join us.

We must make it work

In all sincerity,  I have seen in you, the desire to advance the major goals of this University and to this, I am so grateful. It is my responsibility along with that of other members of the Executive, to preserve this positive attribute. We can make it work, hence, we must make it work. Let us bring together our common values, elements that make us stand and be who we are; let us operate on our common denominator while at the same time looking for ways to deal with our differences. However, I need to mention that contradictory opinions are useful in unpacking ideas. So let us work out the best from our differences.

Filling the Gaps and getting the basic right

My first two months in office has centered around filling gaps. On the 9th of February, the members of the executive were fortunate to be sponsored by Hilton Seychelles for a trip to La Briz Silhouette where we engaged into our first retreat. It wasn’t at all a relaxing day as we spent from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. critically looking at our operations, isolating weaknesses and gaps. Although I agree that we do have many things that are working well,  I have to be honest and say that there is room for improvement in various areas. I hope that you will agree with me. It is my priority, my first and foremost priority to fill these gaps. We cannot afford to get simple things wrong; operate without proper procedures; or functioning to the bare minimum. In other words, we must get the basics right. There shall be no compromise on this one!

Since February 9, and now one month later, we are working on getting the basics right. Time spent on fixing or filling gaps illustrates not only the volume of tasks ahead of us, but also the attention that we are giving to the groundwork.

We do not want to give the impression that we do not know what we are doing. Everybody is watching us. Let us give our best shot. Let us give our clients and everyone else who uses our services, the best possible deal.

Dolivette, the Director of Marketing, will soon publish some procedures which we at executive levels have identified as critical, crucial and urgent. Some of you have had the chance to reflect on our challenges and weaknesses in your section meetings. We have paid great attention to your points and contributions, are we are dedicated to filling those gaps and to continuous improvement.

Getting the basics right also implies going through our legal documents, the charter, the statute, our terms of reference and ensure that we abide and comply to our own rules and regulations.

Compliance

My dear colleagues, in this meeting I wish to address three fundamentals issues, which we deviating too much from. The first one being compliance. It is apparent that rules and procedures are not always observed, which subsequently, imposes a lot of pressure on the entire system. I will ensure that the correct policies and procedures are available and that people re-align their practices to be more compliant in their approaches. I am strongly urging every single individual in this room to help this University grow by adopting a culture of compliance. Respect protocols, respect procedures and policies, follow guidelines and please please please, respect deadlines.

Accountability

Indeed, we all know where the buck stops but this is not a reason for people to lose their sense of responsibility. I really commend all those colleagues who are effeciently handling matters, those who perform to the best of their ability and take full responsibility of their actions. Hence we really need you to support those individuals who unfortunately exhibit a more laissez faire attitude. I have launched the members of the Executive into getting members in their respective sections to work on deliverables, set targets and deadlines and be accountable when they fall below standard. We will move into performance-based appraisal so that in the end, everybody will be able to quantify and qualify their working days.

Commitment

Closely related to accountability is the sense of commitment. Let me recount this story. One day at the breakfast table, the pig and the hens were arguing who between them contributed more towards breakfast. While the hens were claiming that they have to lay at least one egg every day for a nice omelette, the pigs argued that the hens were simply involved in  the breakfast. They, the pigs, are committed. They have to sacrifice themselves for ham and bacon, sausages etc… So my dear friends, we do not want situation where in this University some will be pig while some will be the hens. We should all aim at becoming productive individuals who contribute significantly in one way or another towards getting things done.

With this in mind, I will ask all line managers to note the workload of each of their reports. We need to use people efficiently and effectively. There are few ideas which I want to adopt. I strongly believe that we have adequate support staff to respond to the need of the number of students that we have. It’s just a matter of realigning our practices and tasks.

At faculty level, we need to revisit how we present the learning materials to the students. Someone told me the other day, our students spend too little time in classes. I tend to agree with that person. We need to increase student contact time and engage them more effectively in academic and non-academic related tasks.

Speaking on commitment, I will request that as far as possible staff should be engaged in committees of the University. There will be an extraordinary Senate meeting on 12th April, 2018 whereby some standing committees of Senate will be proposed. Our staff will be encouraged to play active roles on these committees.

En passant, let me inform you that there are three committees whereby attendance is not optional  for members (unless force majeure). They are Council, Senate, and Faculty Board. Calendars of these meeting will be issued at an early stage and members MUST attend these meetings.

Les Grands Plans

So where do we start? Through this meeting, I wish to propose a rigorous approach to moving into the next part of this year.

Strategic Planning, objective formulation and target setting

I made it a must to symbolically give every member of the Executive their own copy of the strategic plan 2017 – 2021, which was endorsed by the Council last year. The Strategic Plan should be the source of all our tasks and activities. I have requested that all members of the Executive along with their teams, extract objectives that relate to their section and then convert these objectives into action plans and projects. This is how we will get priority projects and get to know where and how we should spend our money. We have a really thin budget and it has to be spent wisely.

The different sections, mainly the operation sections have been given a 20th March deadline to complete their objective setting and ultimately identifying areas of priority for their sections for the next part of 2018. In future however, we would aim for this activity to be completed annually by 15th December, so that when we come back the following year from Christmas break, we have a clear picture of what lies ahead of us.

Budgeting

Project planning through proper strategic planning will improve our budget planning. Whilst I agree that we should attempt to find alternative ways of securing income for the University, we should also seek ways to wisely use what we are getting from tuition fees.

I have to admit at this stage that we are still paying 2016/17 invoices. Since, I’ve moved into office, practically every day, I get new surprises; who else do we owe? If there is one area that we need to significantly get in order, it is in our spending practices. My dear friends, I hope you get this message very clear. Whoever, has been giving you the impression that this University has a lot of money, has definitely lied to you. For us, every cent counts. I am indebted to all those individuals who share this concern and have so far assistaed in tightening and tightening.

Please let us get our priorities right in all aspects and as much as possible, avoid coming up with ad hoc requests that do not necessarily feature in the big plan.

I hope that we would reconvene again in three months’ time to share newer projects, priorities and our financial plan.

In the meantime,…

I wish now to turn to the faculty members especially to get reflecting on how we could advance scholarship at UniSey. These are some of the things that pique my interest and to a large extent are becoming a necessity for UniSey:

  • Development of a research vote that support lecturers to research in their field
  • Development of more local programmes that respond to local socio-economic challenges
  • Making Hospitality, Tourism and Environment core features of this University
  • Development of programmes that encourage and/or support mobility
  • Development of structure that support interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary learning.

Overarching interest

The following are some of the overarching projects:

  • Making UniSey a National Project
  • Developing think-tanks across the UniSey
  • Attracting newer generation of lecturers (early career academics)
  • Increasing access to higher education

I will be most grateful if you were to start aligning yourself to some of these major intents and together let us search for potential actions towards their realisation. Most of these intents are rooted in the strategic plan and believe me they are all achievable.

Wrapping up

My fellow colleagues, the plan is big; the mission is significant; as we would say in Creole, travay i la!! Definitely there will be some calories lost along the way. There will be new experiences. After 2½ months, for me, the honeymoon period is over. I am now moving into action-taking phase. I really cannot over-state this point: every one’s effort matters and every single one of you adds up to the total.

Thank you.