/ 27 May 2011

Transformation towards excellence

Transformation Towards Excellence

The Governance and Operations Division, under the watchful eye of Professor Gordon Zide, Deputy-Vice Chancellor at VUT, supports the university’s mission to produce top quality entrepreneurial students that can make an impact on society, and who are employable internationally.

Zide is tasked with providing strategic leadership to ensure that VUT achieves its strategic goals and objectives in line with the vision of the university. “There can never be excellence without commitment, and no commitment without passion — this statement holds true for the Division: Governance and Operations,” Zide says.

In only four years, Zide has made a significant commitment to putting VUT on the map by initiating a rigorous profiling campaign in terms of overall directions to and around the university, a health and safety office, as well as an information centre, for those not familiar with the workings of the campus. Additionally, while all institutions are talking about transformation, VUT had no transformation office that could co-ordinate and drive the efforts and initiatives that were proposed.

By 2009, Zide implemented a transformation and equity unit, which he cites as one of his major achievements at the university to date. “We are today making important inroads into transformation and were the first university to develop, craft and submit an integrated transformation plan to the Department of Education. Subsequently, many universities have called on VUT to give some kind of professional advice in the development of their transformation plans,” he adds.

Transformation is an ongoing process and not an event, says Zide. It is the journey of a lifetime and a journey that requires us to speak the same language of respect, self-respect, tolerance, diversity, equity and fairness. “Transformation is the bedrock of social engagement, social cohesion, public discourse, agreeing to disagree but not to lose focus of who we are as a nation and as a people of the African continent, inbred with the spirit of Ubuntu.”

Another major change at the university is its new prospectus, focusing on the values it wants to embody, such as excellence, creativity, mutual respect, collegiality, honesty, integrity and tolerance, against the backdrop of 40 years of its historical past. “We want to see our graduates make a significant impact in the market. We do recognise where we have come from and that our staff profile is still dominated by white academics, but this is also changing. We don’t view ourselves as a Wits or a University of Johannesburg, but as an entity that stands on its own.”

Zide says there has been a sense of intolerance between staff and students, but with the trajectory that VUT has put in place, it has created a conducive learning environment. “From a governance point of view, we started an anti-corporate bullying forum, to address issues between staff members that are totally unacceptable in an academic institution. Service excellence is what we are striving for and sometimes people do not live up to our expectations.

“Zide says this is where service level agreements (SLAs) come into play. No institution can promote effective service efficiencies without SLAs. “We have to work as a team. The Vice-Chancellor can only succeed if the Deputy Vice-Chancellors work together and support each other. Therefore, each division within the university must have strategic and operational plans in place to support the overall divisional objectives, which in turn support the strategic thrust of the institution,” he concludes.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement