Malawi Government has proposed to change the system of hiring and firing deans of faculties in the University of Malawi (Unima) from the current voting system by academic staff.
Instead, government is proposing that a new system where the Vice-Chancellor appoints the deans on recommendation from the college Appointments and Disciplinary Committees.
The planned change is among proposed amendments contained in the Unima Bill of 2012 scheduled to be tabled in Parliament.
However, the Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has faulted the proposed change, saying it would compromise the independence and professionalism of deans and give government more grip over the university’s academic staff as the Vice-Chancellor’s appointment is approved by the President.
Csec has since written the Legal Affairs and Education committees of Parliament to thoroughly scrutinise the bill when presented to Parliament, describing the proposed change as “ridiculous”.
Currently, university deans are elected by fellow academic staff in their respective faculties and Csec fears the change to an appointment system would shift the deans’ loyalty from the general academic staff in the university to the Vice-Chancellor.
Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe says the current system works better as it is more democratic, arguing the proposed amendment would promote loyalty to the appointing authority.
“This means we shall have executive deans implying more resources. The provision makes the principals unnecessarily too powerful. It is absurd to have the dean removed by merely a recommendation from the principal,” says Kondowe.
In the bill, government has also proposed to extend term limits for the deans from two to four years with possible re-appointment to serve another four years.
The Unima bill comes against a background of an unsuccessful tussle between the late president Bingu wa Mutharika regime and Unima academic staff over academic freedom saga.