Feb 11, 2016 News
-intended to help growth and development
In order for Guyana to become truly competitive at both the regional and national level, it is imperative
that the University of Guyana (UG) plays a key role.
This notion was emphasized yesterday by UG Chancellor, Professor Nigel Harris, who noted, “The University in any society is a central player in terms of determining the competitiveness of a society.”
Professor Harris added, “If a significant percentage of your workers are not highly skilled then your ability to compete in a world driven by technology is going to be very, very limited indeed.”
Speaking at a press conference held at the Education Lecture Theatre, UG Turkeyen campus yesterday, the Chancellor stressed that the time is right for attention to be given to the University’s important mandate. Moreover, he disclosed, “We believe that it is important to pause at this moment and try to understand what some of the major issues are that the University must address so that it can better serve the needs of Guyana”.
It was against this background that a UG Transformational Task Force was established.
The Task Force will be officially launched today at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown. And according to Professor Harris, the Task Force includes representation from the University Council – which comprises representatives including academic, non-academic and student unions; other persons selected from the wider society and persons drawn from the Guyanese Diaspora. All representatives will offer their contributions voluntarily.
“It will have a number of individuals invited from abroad who have had long experiences in academia at other universities. They are Guyanese, who we believe can bring something to the process,” said the Chancellor.
The launch today will mark the first session of the Task Force which will include addresses by Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Professor Harris and acting Vice Chancellor, Dr. Barbara Reynolds.
The main aim of the Task Force will be to initiate a process to restructure and reposition the University so that it can achieve a level of excellence necessary to propel the growth and development of Guyana.
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Professor Harris acknowledged that over the years the University has graduated large numbers of Guyanese who play an important role in all sectors of the society, and even internationally. But according to him, the University is required to do even more if it is to achieve all that is necessary to contribute to the growth and development of Guyana.
In the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Task Force, it is amplified that UG has brought value to Guyana and other places where its graduates have gone. But according to Professor Harris, “We do acknowledge that a number of chronic challenges that have faced the University have not been addressed adequately”.
And these, according to him, include issues such as: staff remuneration, governance of the University, adequacies of the facilities and infrastructural support. Professor Harris also spoke of the University’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) system which, he noted, is not on par with the level that is expected of a modern University. He stressed that the local University’s ICT system should in fact be linked not only to its own community, but with the rest of the world.
Added to this, Professor Harris said that the University is faced with the matter of morals with respect to the qualifications of the academic and non-academic staff and the lack of opportunities for staff development.
“The list really goes on and on,” the Chancellor said, as he observed, “These issues have really been recognised and spoken to many times in the last few decades.”
As such he admitted that the role that the Task Force is mandated to do is certainly not unique.
He recalled that in the last two decades there have been many studies done to look at the challenges of the University, for which recommendations were even forthcoming. However, the prevailing state of affairs is that very few of the recommendations have been implemented, Professor Harris noted.
“What one has to be able to do is to revisit all of this, at what I believe is a moment of opportunity…I believe this is a moment of change. There has been a change in Government. But this does not mean that one party has better ideas and knowledge than another party, but what it does mean is that moments of change are moments of opportunity to look at institutions within the society, and to really come to terms again as to where those institutions are and what issues they face and how one can mobilise the sort of resources to address those matters,” Professor Harris explained.
And taking advantage of this “Moment of opportunity”, Professor Harris said, “Comes at an opportune time when the private sector, other friends of the University, people in the Diaspora, and other institutions within the Caribbean, who can align with the University, want to become re-engaged with the society and the University.”
And according to Professor Harris, the private sector, in particular, is usually able to benefit in real ways from the University in order for it to grow. “The people coming out of the tertiary education system are their resource and means of moving to the next level, they have to play a role; the students themselves have to play a role,” said the Chancellor.
He therefore pointed out yesterday that it is imperative that all sectors of Guyana come together to give keen attention to the University with a view of identifying the issues that confront it in order to determine the means by which these can he addressed.
“I do not believe that the solutions are going to come from the University alone, but the University has to play a big part. It cannot come from Government alone, because with the best will in the world, Government subventions alone cannot pay for, cannot resource, all the changes this university requires. But Government can create an environment and can create strategies by which other sectors might better contribute to the University,” Professor Harris asserted. Through collaboration, he is convinced that the desired change will be realised.
Accompanying Professor Harris at yesterday’s press conference were other senior UG officials including Dr. Nigel Gravesande, Registrar; Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Barbara Reynolds; Deputy Vice Chancellor (Planning and Development), Dr. Elizabeth Ramlall; Bursar, Ms. Holda Poonai and Personnel Officer, Mr. Jeffrey Walcott.
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