The University of Guyana: Challenge and Change

1st June, 2017 0 comments

University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Law Griffith talks with The Guyana Review about the challenges that inhere in the transformation of The University of Guyana

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GDF, UG in move to augment cadet programme

23rd May, 2017 0 comments

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is collaborating with the University of Guyana (UG) to strengthen its Officer Cadet programme by adding an Associate Degree in General Studies component to it.

In a release, the GDF said, “in a major shift for effective transformation for total national defence is embarking on an initiative to significantly upgrade its training of Officer Cadets, through the introduction of an Associate Degree in General Studies, as a compulsory element on their road to officer-ship.”

This initiative, the army said is set to commence with the next cohort of Cadets on Standard Officers Course Number 50. To this end, the GDF and the University of Guyana have held preliminary discussions regarding the move to enhance the training of the Officer Cadets.

Additionally, in a follow up move, Brigadier Patrick West invited UG Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith and his team to visit the training facilities at the Colonel Ulric Pilgrim Officer Cadet School at Base Camp Stephenson. There, the visitors benefitted from a briefing regarding the use and administration of the facilities, which was followed by a tour.

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UG: The Centre of National Transformation

16th May, 2017 0 comments

Attached below is a Kaieteur News Editorial on Sunday May 7th, 2017 describing The Univertsity of Guyana's history and role in the national development of the nation. 

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Poor understanding of UG’s role in KN Editorial

8th May, 2017 0 comments

Dear Editor,
I TRUST that all is well. The Kaieteur News editorial, “UG Needs better Leadership”, published May 04, 2017, [RS2]reflects a poor understanding of the University of Guyana’s role in Guyana’s development and place in the wider world. The University’s mission is to generate, disseminate, and apply knowledge in the service of the community, the nation, and all mankind in an atmosphere of free and critical inquiry (Academic Board 2001). It aims to provide a place for education, learning, and research of the highest university standard in the arts and sciences throughout Guyana. It is a mission and legacy bequeathed to us by our forbearers who had the foresight and wisdom to dream this dream in 1963.

Given this mission, what is the right framework for understanding and analyzing our national university? I humbly submit to the editor, that the guiding principles for a proper analysis of the university’s leadership and trajectory are as follows:

(i) Take a look in the mirror, initial conditions matter[RS3]. One must document and disseminate, with clarity and precision, what was inherited. One ought to ask: What challenges are we facing at our UG? What should UG’s role be in the context of Guyana’s socio-economic and political landscape? What pathways do we take so that UG can play its rightful role in the nation and beyond? A thoughtful observer might have observed the insufficiencies in financial capital and human capital, the lack of management expertise in both of these capital aspects, and the negative impact of these insufficiencies on system efficiency and on the campus’s conditions and morale.

A thoughtful observer might have documented the challenges inherited in the core teaching and research functions at the University. That same thoughtful observer might have noted the number and quality of lecturers; the poor salaries; the issues with timely payment of those salaries; issues related to benefits and class size; the condition of the library; and questions related to the accreditation of the medical and law schools. He or she might have asked where we are now less than a year into the tenure of Dr. Griffith.

(ii) Articulate a clear vision for a 21st century University of Guyana. It is unclear from your reflection that the editor has a vision for the University of Guyana. What does the editor believe the future will bring? What narrative will the University project for the country? What other roles will the University have in the nation? I would direct the editor to the Hamilton Report of 2012, which notes that “The University should undergo a major restructuring programme to make it a high-performance institution.”

I should add that rapidly approaching a high-performance institution is a national imperative given the current socio-economic and political landscape of Guyana and the demographic, economic, social-cultural, political, security and sovereignty, education and health challenges that face the nation. A thoughtful observer would frame the actions of Dr. Griffith through these lenses.

(iii) Target high, value-added endeavours. Education of the highest quality is an existential matter in the 21st century. We can do fundamental research at a global level. I note for the record that in a nation of less than 800,000 that this is our competitive advantage. Our people, many graduates of the University of Guyana, serve across the globe in the modern knowledge economy. We need to apply those talents at home. [RS4]The current challenges in the sugar industry provide a proper test case—we must diversify and innovate and move up the sugar food chain, or we will die. The editor and this editorial do not serve the University and country well. They ask the wrong questions.

I close by noting the following:
Guyana’s population is 735,000. Forty nine per cent (49%) of her citizens are below the age of 24. An estimated 33% of her citizens live in poverty. Over 80% of her citizens with tertiary education have emigrated. GDP composition, by sector of origin: Agriculture: 21.8% (esp. sugarcane, rice, shrimp, fish), Industry: 25.3% (bauxite, sugar, rice, timber, gold), Services: 52.9%. With the discovery of oil and its expected “boon” in a few years, what role will the University of Guyana play in economic growth?

I submit Dr. Griffith’s vision of UG serves to facilitate educational and economic development—for citizens and society—fosters dreaming and changing personal and societal realities, moves Guyanese beyond being to becoming, enables discovery in all relevant fields. He offers Guyana a university which serves as an agent of change, a platform for Guyanese to explore myriad opportunities. The University of Guyana can be a stimulus for innovation in the 21st century, an existential investment for the nation. UG does not exist as a private business; it is an instrument of the nation.

We need to make the called-for investments. Sir Shridath Ramphal reminded us at the Commonwealth Education Conference in Sri Lanka in August 1980, “We have learned that education, when it is not geared to the needs of real development, and when it is not accompanied by progress in other spheres, can lead more to despair than to development, more to frustration than to fulfillment, and more to social tension than to social advance.”

Terrence Blackman, Dean
School of Science, Health & Technology
Medgar Evers College, City University of New York

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UG athletes dominate National Schools Relay Festival

5th May, 2017 0 comments

The nation’s highest learning institution, University of Guyana (UG) along with West Demerara Secondary and Christianburg/Wismar Multilateral School recorded some standout performances when the Ministry of Education (MoE) staged the second annual National Schools Relay Festival at the National Track and Field Centre at Leonora yesterday.

The student athletes of UG unsurprisingly dominated the tertiary segment of the event with their speedy footwork and their faultless baton passing. A quartet of sprinters from West Demerara romped home to victory in the girls 4x100m U-14 event which was anchored by the fleet footed Binka Joseph.

Jennis Benjamin ran an impressive anchor leg for Christianburg/Wismar for his team to take the top podium spot in the Boys U-18 4x100m event. Up to press time, the official results were still to be released. A full report will be published in a subsequent article.

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Discussion on School of Entrepreneurship & Business Innovation

1st May, 2017 0 comments

Press Secretary and Television Anchor Malika N. Ramsey discusses the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovations. The team included members from the University of Guyana.

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UG, MovieTowne Inc Sign MOU for Solar Farm and Student Housing Complex

29th April, 2017 0 comments

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday between University of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor, Pro-fessor Ivelaw Griffith and Director of MovieTowne Derek Chin for the construction of a solar farm on the Turkeyen Campus.

Griffith and Chin, in his capacity as head of the Trinidad-based Dachin Group of Companies, also signed a MoU for the construction of a 150-room student housing complex at the Turkeyen Campus, with a similar facility also to be explored for the Tain Campus.

The cost and the location of the solar farm have not been determined yet, but according to MovieTowne Director Hadyn Gadsby, they hope to commence work by December. He added that the housing complex is also set to be constructed for the first quarter in 2018 but it is still in its planning more here

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Can the present UG administration deliver the institution from its political prison?

25th April, 2017 0 comments

No astute witness to the cataclysmic decline of the University of Guyana over the years would seriously challenge the view that the prevailing conditions at the institution are, in large measure, a function of the debilitating diet of crass political intervention that it has had to endure and much of which has manifested itself in some of the most unenlightened and counterproductive feuding between the country’s two main political parties. UG, of course is not the only supposedly autonomous state institution that has, over the years, been blighted (and in some instances ruined) by the dead hand of political intervention.  One of the distressing and debilitating tendencies of the Guyanese political culture is that possession of power is customarily attended by a proclivity for dominance of all that the state controls, even including those institutions that are governed by constitutional provisions that frown upon direct political intervention. It is that tendency by our politicians to refuse to recognize and respect the nexus between the independence of those institutions (like UG) and their effective functioning that has been, in large measure, responsible for the near ruinous state from which the University is now seeking to recover.

UG, as was mentioned earlier, is not the only presumably autonomous local institution to have suffered the ignominious fate of crude political intervention.  Various state-run but autonomous institutions like the Guyana State Corporation (GUYSTAC), the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) and the Guyana National Co-operative Bank (GNCB) come to mind. The interventions have come for various reasons one of which is as trivial as the desire by politicians so positioned to flex their muscles. Another, as was widely believed to be the case with the GNCB, was simply in order to grant political favours. In more recent times there have been revelations of alleged corruption-related political intervention in state-controlled bodies like the Central Housing and Planning Authority. (CHPA).

In the case of UG there is a long-standing case to be made for a nexus for the underperformance of the university in the execution of its primary function and the dead hand of politics as manifested chiefly in the ongoing inter-party political feuding.

Whether or not the present Vice Chancellor of UG, Professor Ivelaw Griffith  will find himself batting on a better wicket than that of his predecessors as far as undue political interference at the university is concerned remains to be seen. One makes this point having regard not only to what has obtained over the years, but also having regard to the fact that we are in the midst of a political season in which   just about every conceivable issue precipitates a faceoff.

Sad to say and setting aside the customary political rhetoric, there has been no really persuasive evidence over the years  that our political leaders have been seized of the importance of the link between an accomplished higher institution of learning and the creation of the various skills necessary for a multi-faceted development agenda. Otherwise, surely, UG would not have been so starved of funds over the years so as to suffer the kind of devastating decline in both material and intellectual resources that it has.  Indeed, the contemporary image of UG is, in large measure, a function of its overwhelming undernourishment and the fact that it had become a lightning rod for political feuding.

Political assaults on the sanctity of the university have had the effect of completely rendering its substantive managers virtually impotent so that when the sparks begin to fly those functionaries (notably the Vice Chancellor) have found themselves at odds with the political interlopers but powerless to engage them since state funding remains the life blood of the institution.

Professor Griffith, his more than three decades-stay outside of Guyana notwithstanding, would have been staying abreast of developments at home and specifically at UG and would doubtless be aware of the fact that the institution had become a political battleground over the years. Indeed, he made it clear in an interview with the Guyana Review two weeks ago that he had indeed been tracking developments at UG from abroad and that he was aware of the overwhelming failure of “different governments” to be mindful of what he says (and here he insists that he speaks from considerable experience of universities in North America and Europe, among other places) is “a cardinal rule that the intrusion of politics into the affairs of the University is not good for the University,” nor is it good for “society;” and the Vice Chancellor, surely, must have had UG particularly in mind when he added in a rejoinder that “the fact that you are a state university does not mean that the university should be dictated to politically.”

Up until now Professor Griffith does not appear to be unhappy (at least it does not seem so) with his relationship with the government. One anticipates, however, that there could be testing times ahead particularly when it comes to what he says is the necessity for a greater infusion of state funding from government (among other sources) into the rebuilding of UG. What, however, is significant about the Vice Chancellor’s position on the relationship between his administration and the political powers that be is that his own stated position is clear. This is what he had to say about his disposition to political pressure in the matter of the running of the university.

“… I have made it quite clear that I am not going to be a Vice Chancellor that facilitates that internal political dictation – who to hire, who to fire, what student to admit, what to publish.  The University must be a place, a for neutral ground for all places, critical of government, critical of opposition and as a Vice Chancellor I have asked for the importance of civility.”

It has to be said that the perspective of the Vice Chancellor on the kind of leadership that he seeks to bring to the running of UG is, in some significant ways, not in keeping with the outlook demonstrated by the politicians over the years. There have been interventions, several of them, in some of the very areas which Vice Chancellor Griffith says he is determined to set his face against. The extent to which he gets his way in the period ahead could have a profound impact on our success or otherwise in pursuit of the re-tooling of UG to play what, in the period ahead, could be a critical role in intellectually equipping the nation to meet its critical developmental needs.

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Renaissance Vol. 2 No. 3

18th April, 2017 0 comments

The collaboration between the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and the Centre for Communication Studies (CCS) of The University of Guyana brings to you this Volume 2: No. 3 edition of Renaissance, a monthly newsletter. Renaissance is the Vice-Chancellor’s medium of sharing with you our University’s developments.

The month of March was filled with activities held in observance of International Women’s Day. Ms Audrey Benn, Lecturer in the Women Studies Unit has written an important message on the importance of celebrating women and our own Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Engagement), Dr Michael Scott shared an impacting poem, both of which we hope you will reflect on.

In this edition you will also read about a number of lecture series hosted by UG: Turkeyen and Tain Talks VI and the VC’s Renaissance Lecture Series II.

UG recently launched its very own press as a publishing arm in collaboration with Ian Randle of Jamaica’s Ian Randle Publishers. This is truly an historic move by our University. The Renaissance team had an opportunity to profile the new Director of the Centre for Biodiversity, Dr Gyanpriya Maharaj.

Additionally, in March the winners of the Turkeyen campus’ Open/Career Day were announced. We congratulate the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences on winning the first place, Vice-Chancellor’s Cup in this event.

Our alumni around the world have certainly made us proud. We feature in this edition of Renaissance the story of Ms Sonnel David-Longe’s 2017 Ridding Reading Prize from the Girton College of the University of Cambridge in the UK.

As you read, be inspired to join us as we celebrate UG’s Renaissance!

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Multi-million dollar contracts awarded to fix roads & bridges, procure classroom equipment for UG

18th April, 2017 0 comments

Cabinet at its meeting on Thursday, April 13, 2016, noted the award of contracts by the procurement entities and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board(NPTAB)in the area of rehabilitative works, infrastructural development and other areas.

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