Today was a big day for the University of Botswana. They unveiled the long awaited and much whispered about new logo and new website. Some controversy surrounded the purchase and million dollar change over of old logo to new as the design work was contracted to a South African company and the argument is made that money could be better spent elsewhere. But as valid as these points may be they do not jive with a concerted effort by the Government of Botswana and administrators at UB to “market” the university to not just Africa, but the world. This event, described as a “branding” (appropriate considering the significance of the cattle industry in Botswana) of the university, is the introduction of a “symbol” for a product. So at what point does a public university become a commodity to buy rather than a government service for students to earn?
I only thought of this after reading a memo in the Graduate Department giving the admissions numbers for this semester and the rationale for each admitted students. For the Master’s in Public Administration program, which I am in, there are 4 students listed as accepted due to their ‘positive economic impact in bringing resources into the programme.’ I’m assuming I’m one of those, and it does raise the question of who might have gotten the shaft because I applied with gauanteed funding and they needed financial aid. I’m confident that U.S. universities do this as well (public and private) however I doubt they are open about it.
This topic came up at Graduate School Orientation, as well as some other short term goals for the University of Botswana and Graduate Programme.
- Accredit 3-6 week courses for European and American exchange students
- Increase endowment and annual endowment fundraiser
- Offer online registration (trial version was this semester for select group of students)
- Online programs such as Executive MBA/MPA
- Become a research oriented university by mandating 600 hours of graduate level reserach for graduate degrees
- The “economic rationale” of international education (i.e. it brings in money)
This gives an idea of where the University of Botswana is and where it wants to be, at least according to the Dean of the Graduate Programme and other speakers at the graduate orientation. Most of these goals are familiar to me as I heard them at A&M Corpus Christi and Univ. of North Texas. Just like here they talked about the “economic impact” of the university and both cities used the universities are marketing tools for bringing in business. In both of those Texas cities and here in Botswana those who ideologically value the merit of education sometimes are at odds with those who see the existance of higher education as a means to an economic ends.