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Local vice-chancellor appointed – after foreigner declines

The University of Mauritius has finally appointed a local academic, Professor Ramesh Rughooputh, as vice-chancellor – following the abrupt resignation of his foreign predecessor, and after another foreign academic declined the post.

Rughooputh, who has worked at the university for 35 years, succeeds Professor Konrad Morgan, who resigned with immediate effect in January amid claims of government interference in the university – a claim denied by Tertiary Education Minister Rajesh Jeetah.

Morgan had previously been dean of the school of applied media and information technology at the Alberta Institute of Technology in Canada. His departure came as a surprise because though he had said last year that he would quit the top job, he had been prepared to remain until his contract expired at the end of 2012.

But Ramesh Rughooputh was not the University of Mauritius board’s first choice. Neil Garrod, a British national who is deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Greenwich, was first offered the job. He declined three weeks later.

“I was really surprised to learn that details about the negotiations between the University of Mauritius and I had leaked in the press. It’s the first time in my career that something like that happened to me,” Garrod told local journalists after he declined the post.

The appointment of a Mauritian was welcomed by the Student Union President Navin Fookeerah. “To be in charge of an institution like the University of Mauritius requires one to know Mauritian reality.”

The resignation of Morgan had proved that. “This is why we believe that a Mauritian should have been chosen as the new vice-chancellor,” said Fookeerah.

It is not clear why the university board has been keen for the national university to be lead by a foreign professor, though presumably it has made selections based on the strongest candidate.

But Mauritius is building itself up to be a regional education hub and is internationalising higher education, attracting foreign institutions into the island – which is tops Africa on the UN human development index – and aiming to attract 10,000 international students by 2020.

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