University of Seychelles has ‘enormous potential’ to become a research hub, says Vice-Chancellor
Dennis Hardy addresses the audience gathered for the 2014 graduation ceremony at the University of Seychelles' Anse Royale campus (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The University of Seychelles (UniSey) recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and last week sent over 300 new graduates out into the working world.
Established in September 2009, the institution offers degree and post graduate studies, with degrees awarded by partner institutions such as the University of London, L’Université de La Réunion, and L’Université de Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne.
But according to Professor Dennis Hardy, the Vice-Chancellor of UniSey, the institution is about to broaden its horizons further, and for him, the possibilities for the growth of UniSey are vast.
SNA caught up with the Vice-Chancellor to discuss the university’s ambitious plans for the future.
SNA: You became the VC of UniSey in February but you have previously held a variety of positions throughout the world – what made you decide to come to Seychelles and join UniSey?
DH: This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Seychelles is a small but very progressive nation with a long tradition of championing education opportunities. The university is the brainchild of the President and has his constant support. And one cannot ignore the fact that Seychelles offers a wonderful natural environment. Who would turn down an offer like this? I didn’t think twice before saying ‘yes’!
SNA: UniSey celebrated its fifth anniversary in September and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London recently lauded the fledgling institution as a ‘great success story’ – what do you think about the university’s progress thus far?
DH: [Last week] we held two graduate ceremonies for more than 300 graduates. This is evidence of how the university is making a difference. It is offering opportunities to enter higher education for many Seychellois who simply wouldn’t have had this chance if – as used to be the case – everyone had to go overseas.
|Vice-Chancellor Hardy at the recent graduation ceremony of the latest group of UniSey students. (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo Licence: CC-BY|
SNA: Being a small island developing state, Seychelles faces many challenges, and as a Seychellois institution, UniSey is likely faced with similar constraints. What are the biggest challenges?
DH: Seychelles has a small population total and this necessarily limits the number of local students. There are only so many school-leavers who are completing their A-levels with the right grades for university entry. I think we are nearly at the limit of the annual recruitment of school leavers who will come to UniSey.
However, we are nowhere near the limit of local opportunities we can offer as there are many mature students in employment who would like to study part-time. We are now looking for ways to make this possible. And we are heavily involved in professional development so that, through lifelong learning, the skilled labour force of Seychelles keeps abreast of new demands resulting from global change.
SNA: How many students are there at present and how many new enrollments are you expecting for next year?
DH: Currently we have 946 students studying on what we call ‘long courses’: degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate), diplomas and certificates. We will grow year on year because: (a) some of our courses are still rolling through to their second and third years; (b) each year we introduce one or two new courses; for example, next year will see the start of a new MBA; (c) we will have more part-time and professional development students; and (d) we will recruit international students.
|Over 300 jubilant students celebrated their graduation ceremony at UniSey last week and will soon begin work as skilled employees (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: What is the ratio of foreign and local lecturers? Can we expect to see more Seychellois lecturers in the near future?
DH: Lecturers from overseas are in a majority and having a proportion of international lecturers is a good thing.
But I am keen to see the balance shift more towards Seychellois academics. We have introduced some changes to make it more attractive for Seychellois to develop an academic career at the university and, progressively, this will make a difference. In any case, our three Deans, who are the senior academic leaders, are all Seychellois.
SNA: In terms of students, is UniSey hoping to attract more foreign students, and if so, from where and for which types of courses?
DH: We are currently launching a campaign to attract international students to Seychelles. This will be helped by the fact that we offer University of London degree courses so that international students can study for these in the peaceful society of Seychelles and at a lower cost than if they were to spend three years in London.
We expect to attract students from some of the African countries, the Middle East, northern Europe and Russia. China, too, is a likely source of students.
SNA: Given that there is quite a large scientific fraternity conducting environmental research in Seychelles due to our natural environment, do you see UniSey playing a greater role in these research activities?
DH: Good question. We are currently planning how best to offer NGOs and others a common platform without taking anything away from their individual entities. In the coming year we will be exploring partnerships with some major international research institutions, the lure being that the natural environment of Seychelles is a unique laboratory.
SNA: In terms of the variety of courses offered, how much can we reasonably expect UniSey to broaden its horizons and by when?
DH: Change will be progressive as we need to grow sustainably. From a relatively narrow base, we will extend the range year on year. One area in which I am keen to see us make headway is healthcare education.
Over time, UniSey will offer a wider range of courses. This will reduce the need to send that number of students overseas, at least for their undergraduate education.
SNA: What do you personally hope to achieve during your tenure in terms of your own legacy?
DH: I’m never too keen to think in terms of a personal legacy. I really enjoy my job and I think the best I can hope for is to help create the kind of university where creativity will flourish. UniSey will succeed because of the people who will take it forward. As we’ve got some great teams – our support staff as well as academics – I’m confident that things will turn out well. Everyone wants to help build a university that the nation can be proud of.
SNA: In which area do you see the greatest potential for UniSey’s development?
DH: I’m sure that the courses will grow in terms of range as well as recruitment numbers. And it is the courses that will always be the bedrock of UniSey. But the potential to be a research hub is enormous and, in the long term, that will be a defining factor.
SNA: In terms of the personal development and empowerment of Seychellois, how do you envision UniSey shaping the young minds that pass through the institution?
DH: At our graduation ceremonies we all witnessed graduates who collected their awards with pride, and their happiness – and that of their families – was very obvious. They will look forward to the future with optimism and make their own contributions to the nation. I hope that UniSey will continue to inspire them to step forward with confidence in this way.
Emeritus Professor Dennis Hardy graduated with a Bachelor's degree in geography from the University of Exeter United Kingdom, where he went on to complete his Masters in the same subject.
He then joined the Greater London Council and qualified at University College London as a professional urban planner. Professor Hardy also holds a PhD from the London School of Economics.
He has previously held positions as the Dean of the Australian Institute of Business and also served as Dean, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom.