V-c quits after rough ride at helm of Botswanan institute

February 14, 2003

A US academic has stepped down after five turbulent years as vice-chancellor of the University of Botswana, the only university in the small southern African state.

Sharon Siverts was appointed in February 1998 after a successful career in the US, where she was vice-president for academic affairs at the University of North Dakota and of Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

In Gaborone, Professor Siverts struggled against opposition arising from the decision not to fill her post from within the country.

Despite facing strikes and demonstrations, she managed to make various changes at the university, including the introduction of semesterisation.

She also abolished the posts of registrar and bursar, privatised the bookshop and other services, and implemented a building programme.

Professor Siverts' attempt to get a new vice-chancellor's lodge built attracted the attention of MPs, who called for an investigation into alleged mismanagement.

During her time in office, student numbers grew from 6,800 to 12,000. But without an increase in resources, the growth put a strain on the quality of provision.

Deputy vice-chancellor Brian Mokopakgosi is acting vice-chancellor while a replacement for Professor Siverts is sought.

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