Born in Caledon in the Western Cape, Professor Petrus Botha matriculated from Paarl Boys High in 1979. After completing his studies, he started his academic career at the Police Academy in Graaff-Reinet. In 1996, he was appointed as a lecturer in Public Management at the Polokwane Campus of the Pretoria Technikon, now the Tshwane University of Technology. After 14 years of service as a senior lecturer and programme manager, he accepted the position of Dean of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences (HSS) at the Mafikeng Campus of the NWU as from 1 January 2010.
“As Executive Dean, my primary role is to provide academic leadership. I am responsible for managing the University’s threefold core business, namely teaching–learning, research, and implementation of expertise,” explains Prof Botha. His other responsibilities include: the development and implementation of a strategic plan for the Faculty in line with the NWU’s Institutional Plan and the Mafikeng Campus Plan; the compilation and effective management of business plans and related budgets in order to support the strategic plan of the Faculty of HSS; the management of the recruitment, development and performance of human resources; and the administrative and financial management of the Faculty.
Prof Botha is a specialist in public management, organisational behaviour and management, and wellness. He has a keen interest in teaching and has research experience in: strategic management and thinking; knowledge management; change and transformational management; organisational development; employee performance management; ethics; people management; and organisational theory.
“I am supervising three masters’ students, two of whom are nearing completion of their degrees. Although it is very difficult to find time for research, my goal is to publish at least one article per year,” he says. One of his articles, ‘Intellectual Wellness Behaviour Levels of Managers at Two South African Higher Education Institutions’, will be published in the South African Journal of Higher Education early in 2013. He is also the co-author of an article titled ‘Politicisation of Performance Appraisals’.
One of Prof Botha’s goals is to promote a research culture in his Faculty. Further goals in this regard include increasing research outputs by promoting joint and multidisciplinary research projects, and developing research capacity in order to increase the pool of active researchers within the Faculty.
According to Prof Botha, the position of Dean is extremely challenging and rewarding. His advice for those aspiring to this or a similar position is to gain as much experience as possible in management by attending specialised courses in management and leadership. “You should have a passion for higher education, and, above all, be performance-driven. Faculties have become business units, and I strongly advise that you find a balance between a collegial and managerial approach in managing a Faculty,” he elaborates.
A Dean should exhibit particular proficiency in areas such as leadership, team development, cultural proficiency, knowledge management, strategic thinking and planning, ethical decision making, learning how to learn, and community development in order to facilitate organisational change through transformational management. Leadership is a collective activity that requires mutual inquiry, learning, and the capacity to work with complex challenges. Therefore, it necessitates a mind-set of collaboration and collective minds to keep pace with the rapidly changing reality.
Faculty programmes include Communication, Public Relations, Journalism, Social Work, Counselling, Setswana Translation and Interpreting, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Land Reform and Rural Development, Peace Studies and International Relations, Clinical Psychology, English, History, Political Studies, Tourism Management, Population and Demography, as well as Sociology.
Some of the Faculty’s most recent successes include:
The development and implementation of a turnaround strategy, and stabilisation of the Faculty.
The development and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan in line with the Institutional and Campus Plan.
The implementation of a research structure, system and culture which has led to an increase in research outputs from a very low base.
The development and implementation of a workload model to ensure a fair and equal workload allocation.
The restructuring of the Faculty.
The development and implementation of a programme financial viability model.
The development and implementation of key performance indicators to monitor and measure the Faculty’s performance.
Improving the qualifications of staff.
The implementation of a quality-assurance plan.
Substantial growth in student enrolment.
The Faculty has made significant progress in ensuring the relevance and financial sustainability of programmes. This it has done by discontinuing nonviable programmes and phasing in new programmes. It has also started reaping the benefits of implementing a turnaround strategy for the Population and Health niche area. To ensure continuity, commitment and job security, the Faculty has become less reliant on part-time lecturers and is, instead, appointing more academic staff members on permanent or fixed-term contracts.
NWU’s strategic goals for 2013 are to improve its teaching and learning, to engage in more community development projects, and to increase its research outputs. In addition, the Faculty plans to promote Setswana by offering Setswana as an elective module in all its programmes, and to develop a new professional qualification in community development.
The NWU has a diverse campus with quality programmes and exceptional research outputs. On it, students will find a vibrant student life. Moreover, the campus has excellent facilities and infrastructure and is renowned for its safe and caring environment.
The programmes and disciplines within the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences have a vital role to play in the development of the country by shaping social policy, by establishing a framework of thought patterns, by shaping the perceptions and understanding of the world, and by stimulating creativity and discussion. The collective knowledge of the Faculty’s disciplines can contribute to the solution of complex problems by means of interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of research. The Faculty thus has a significant role to play in the development of society, the economy and intellectual wellness.
The Faculty of Human and Social Sciences is the result of the amalgamation of the School of Human Sciences and School of Social Sciences of the former University of Bophuthatswana (UNIBO). Since 2007 student enrolment has stabilised.
The vision of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences on North-West University’s (NWU) Mafikeng Campus is to produce globally competitive and market-savvy graduates through responsive and relevant academic programmes and research, as well as through sustainable community development outreach activities that foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
NWU’s mission is to provide students with a balanced and relevant academic and professional experience, with quality qualifications, as well as with comparable marketable skills that will enable them to contribute significantly to the socioeconomic, cultural and political development of the country and the North West province in particular.
CASE IN POINT | North West University
by Shalane van Rensburg