Unisa Appoints First Woman Vice Chancellor In More Than 140 years


Unisa has appointed Professor Puleng LenkaBula as the institution's new vice-chancellor. She is the first woman to occupy the position in more than 140 years and is tasked with tackling issues such as slow transformation as well as the fees crisis.


On Thursday this past week, The University of South Africa (Unisa) inaugurated Professor Puleng LenkaBula as the institution's new vice-chancellor. Her appointment comes as the university grapples with a number of challenges, including the fees crisis in the higher education sector and the slow pace of transformation. 

During an interview with NewsroomAfrika, LenkaBula said that one of the areas she is looking to prioritize during her tenure is to address the issues around access to higher education, particularly among students who rely on state funding resources such as NSFAS.

She adds that although students make use of the available opportunities at the university, she has found that on several occasions students tend to drop out or often fail in their academic endeavours.

She says this contributes to the high attrition rate of 30 to 40% as well as the failure rate which stands at 21%. 

Therefore in my tenure, I'm hoping we can co-construct the University of South Africa as a site of excellence. I've also brought through the idea of looking through catalytic-research areas that are entwined with South Africa's NDP aspirations and entwined with agenda 2063 and the global SDGs.

LenkaBula also points out that one of the issues that have not been thoroughly looked into is ensuring that student graduates are equipped with the necessary skills to easily find or create employment or innovative systems that help them contribute to socio-economic transformation.

She says that this can be achieved through the ten catalytic-niche areas of energy, aeronautical, marine as well as oceanic studies. She says prioritizing these areas of study will lower the country's dependence on foreign knowledge systems.

In tackling the issues around the ongoing fees crisis, she says that by next year the university is looking to engage various stakeholders, including philanthropists attract investment towards high performing learners who are struggling financially.

 As it stands, over 50% of the university's students rely on some form of funding support from the state. She also points out that although she does enjoy the support of the university's epistemic society, there are those who stand against her transformation agenda, but that she does not allow these instances to compromise her leadership principles. 

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