Task forces proposes axing political, special interest reps from UG council
A task force set up to examine the governance structure of the University Of Guyana (UG) has recommended that the membership of the university’s governing council be severely pared down and its functions restricted to policy formation so that the Vice-Chancellor (VC) can have greater autonomy in the day-to-day running of the institution.
Speaking on Tuesday at a Media Luncheon to mark the end of his second year in office, Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith noted that with the permission of the University Council, the task force, led by Professor Lawrence Carrington, was constituted to review the governance structure of the university.
After a year and a half of work, the task force is set to present its recommendations on July 26th at an extraordinary meeting of the council.
Among the recommendations to be presented is a call for “no partisan political representation or special interest representation on the university council.”
Griffith noted that the current University of Guyana Act requires that representatives from the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, American University of State Colleges and Universities, Committee for International Cooperation and Higher Education of the United Kingdom be included in the council, yet these bodies are “not interested in us.”
“Governance recommendation is that there should be a slimmer governance council focused on competencies and not special interest representation. That is a significant recommendation to what is proposed as the current governance arrangement,” Griffith stressed.
UG Registrar Dr. Nigel Gravesande further explained that the intention of the task force was to ensure that there was a greater level of intellectual autonomy at the university.
“The contraction of its membership ought not to be interpreted that sectoral interests would not be taken into consideration, but mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that these interests find their way into the governance operations, whether it is at the level of the Council that they be invited or the Academic Board, for example, to which private sector’s involvement in curriculum review, curriculum refocusing to meet the developmental needs can in fact be catered for,” he explained.
Reminding that there existed a nine month gap between the expiration of the last council and the establishment of the current one, Gravesande noted that the recommendation will allow for a seamless transition from one council to the other as appointments will not be blocked.
He stressed too that the recommendation will allow the Chief Executive, the VC, to have greater autonomy since the council will deal with policy and the VC will deal with “operational issues with a mechanism for accountability that is clear.”
“For the last 50 years, one saw an intrusion by the University Council into operational issues of the university; the day-to-day administration,” he stressed.
Gravesande noted that the existence of a “mechanism for accountability” will prevent a rogue administration from developing as the VC will have to report on all activities on a regular basis.
Griffith also noted that the existence of several reporting structures outside of the council will prevent the development of a runaway VC as there is the “Academic Board, the Finance and General Purposes Committee, and the Council of Deans.”
Griffith and Gravesande both indicated that if approved by Council, the recommendations would have to be approved by the National Assembly as an Amendment to the current University of Guyana Act.
Griffith has already met with Attorney General Basil Williams in expectation of this reality.
The University of Guyana Act currently states that the Council shall consist of 26 members, including the Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, and Principal and Vice-Chancellors. The other members, according to the Act, must be drawn as follows: One person to be nominated by the Committee of Deans; one person to be nominated by the Academic Board; one from the Guild of Graduates; one from the Student Society; one from the University of Guyana Workers’ Union; one from the Ministry of Education and Cultural Development; one from the Ministry of Finance; one from the political party in office; one from the minority leader; four from Non-Governmental Organisations which in the opinion of the minister best represents the interest of women, farmers, Amerindians and business; one from the Guyana Trades Union Congress; three by the Minister to contribute in the field of medicine and law; six persons identified by the Chancellor and of which one shall be from each of the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, American University of State Colleges and Universities, Committee for International Cooperation and Higher Education of the United Kingdom and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Private sector objects to business representative on UG Council
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it is extremely disappointed with regards to the appointment of the representative of business on the Council of the University of Guyana.
In a statement yesterday, the PSC said that on the 27/6/17 it was written to by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education requesting the nomination of a representative of the PSC and it nominated the executive head of the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry (CAGI), the organisation which it consider to be the Private Sector authority on education and human development matters to sit on the new council.
This has been the custom and practice for the last over 25 years, the PSC said. However, the government announced recently, that businesswoman Allison Butters-Grant would be representing the business community. It is unclear who nominated her but the PSC objection underlines those by others about interference by the government in the composing of the council. Butters-Grant has been seen to have formed a close relationship with the government.
Unions at the University of Guyana had also objected to the manner in which the council was being composed given efforts over many years by governments to control the council.
It is important that the voice of the PSC which is the umbrella Pivate Sector organisation for business to be represented on the council, the PSC statement said.
“We urge that those responsible correct this anomaly forthwith”, the statement added.
Joe Singh is new UG pro-chancellor
MAJOR General (Ret’d) Joe Singh was elected pro-chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG) by the university’s council on Thursday. Singh replaced Bibi Shadick who had served in the position for a number of years. UG Chancellor, Professor Nigel Harris made the announcement during a press briefing on Thursday.
A pro-chancellor is an officer of some universities in Commonwealth countries. The pro-chancellor also acts as a deputy to the chancellor and is practically the chairman of the university council. Singh said he is ready to work in the best interest of the team of managers and the university during his tenure. “I intend to do my utmost in the interest of the university by being a team player… it was indeed an honour to have been elected as pro-chancellor,” said Singh.
Singh in 1956 won a Government County Scholarship to Queen’s College where he completed his secondary education and after a short stint in the civil service, was among the first batch of Guyanese selected by the British Army in 1965 to attend an officer cadet training in the UK, in preparation for the establishment of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) of independent Guyana. He is a graduate of Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot (1966); the School of Infantry, Warminster (1970); the Army School of Education, Beaconsfield (1970); the Army Free Fall Parachute School, Netheravon (1970); the Army Staff College, Camberley (1977); and the Royal College of Defence Studies, Belgrave Square, UK (1995).
His service as a commissioned officer spanned 34 years commencing as a Second Lieutenant on June 4, 1966; Lieutenant 1968; Captain 1970; Major 1972; Lieutenant Colonel 1975; Colonel 1979; Brigadier 1986; and Major General 1999. He is also a graduate of the University of Guyana (Public Administration), the UK Royal College of Defence Studies (Post Graduate – International Relations and Strategic Studies), and of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Greenwich University, UK (MSc in Tourism and Protected Landscape Management).
Article adapted from: http://guyanachronicle.com/2018/03/09/joe-singh-is-new-ug-pro-chancellor
Minimising political intrusion among proposals for reformed UG council
A proposal to minimise “political intrusion” in the University of Guyana’s Council through a revision of the overarching legislation was brought to the newly-appointed body yesterday.
At a press briefing following the council’s first business meeting since its appointment last month, Chancellor E Nigel Harris said that a report submitted by Professor Lawrence Carrington, who led a committee to revisit the governance of the university, was among the business discussed. Carrington is a former Vice-Chancellor of the university.
Harris noted that since the university’s establishment in 1963, the University of Guyana Act has not been revised.
“Over the years of the University of Guyana, and this goes many, many, years, the council itself was politicised and indeed political biases, if you will, did not only appear in the council, but they did in other management decisions within the context of the university…,” Harris related, stating that they want to “do away with the whole question of representation of political parties” and other organisations. Harris said that there are other mechanisms for receiving input from the wider community.
“…What we want to do is to assemble people who have the abilities and skills that can contribute in very meaningful ways to the governance of the university in terms of oversight and strategic planning, in terms of its financial management, financial culpability, in terms of its policy making…you’re trying to get the best talents that can contribute to the rest of the organization rather than saying we designate political groups in order to represent, because that does not serve the University of Guyana,” Harris asserted.
“The intent is to reduce the vulnerability of the university’s operations to political intrusion into the management,” Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith later stated.
Other recommendations in the proposal, according to Harris, are for a reduction in the number of persons on the council; the reexamination of the roles of the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor; and a more accountable system that requires the university to make a report of its activities and finances.
Harris related that the aim is to create a more “efficient and effective entity” and he opined that in cases where there is trouble separating “oversight” from “management,” this usually works to the detriment of the university.
Asked about the extent to which government would be involved with the new proposed structure, Harris said that it is expected that there will be representation from the ministries of Education and Finance.
Griffith related that consultations will be taken to the wider university community before the final proposal goes to council. He also noted that there are other key players that would play a role, such as the Attorney General, whose expertise would be needed to assist with the formal drafting of the legislation.
“This is an important moment for the university, a moment of transformation and its essential that its governance—its Act, statutes—be modernised in keeping with what we hope is going to be a more modern and dynamic university,” said Harris.
Griffith stated that while there may not be unanimity in the decision, there was a “sense” at yesterday’s council meeting that “what is proposed takes us a far way ahead to building a genuine university….”
Joe Singh appointed new UG Pro-Chancellor
Major General (Rtd) Joe Singh has been appointed the University of Guyana’s new Pro-Chancellor, by a unanimous vote. The announcement was made at a press conference following the university’s first meeting of its new council yesterday. Singh, who had been on the list of the Chancellor’s nominees for the council, yesterday thanked it for placing confidence in him and stated his intention to work to forward the interests of the university. Last month, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced the composition of the university’s new council, which would operate for three years with effect from February 22nd, 2018.
The council was appointed despite objections from the unions at the University of Guyana over the selection process. The university’s council now comprises Singh, Chancellor Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith, Jacqueline Murray, Dr Paulette Bynoe, UGSS President Norwell Hinds, union representative Dr Jewel Thomas, Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Vibert Welch, Representative of the Ministry of Finance Sonya Roopnauth, Vincent Alexander, a yet to be named nominee from the parliamentary opposition, Jasmin Harris, Patrick DeGroot, Mariam Andrews, Alison Butters-Grant, Ivor English, Timothy Jonas, Dr. Navindranauth Rambarran, Dr. Marissa Seepersaud, Myrna Bernard and Registrar Nigel Gravesande serving as secretary.
UG executives' salary increase hinges on Council appointment; ready to pay other staff next week
University of Guyana (UG) executive staff members will have to await the appointment of a Council before they are paid salary increases, but academic and non-academic staff can receive their six to eight percent salary hike by October 9.
UG Registrar, Dr. Nigel Gravesande told Demerara Waves Online News that the executive staff members would not be paid until the Council is constituted. The Ministry of Education is yet to name a Council since the life of the last decision-making body ended in July.
Gravesande said the eight percent to non-academic staff and six percent to academic staff retroactive to January 1, 2017 would amount to GYD$181 million. He could not say whether there would be any money left over after the pay-out.
In a statement issued Saturday, UG sought to dispel claims that the Workers Union (UGWU) and Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) were never informed that the executive staff would not be paid along with other workers.
“It is to be noted, as well, that exclusion of the University’s executive members from the negotiation package and consequential benefits was communicated clearly and unambiguously to the unions on September 20, 2017 in a letter which stated that, “the administration is committed to consummating an agreement that will not include members of the executive, but will include elements of performance …,” the institution said.
The Registrar could not say whether the performance yardstick would take the form of a merit-increment system to determine how much workers would actually receive.
The UG statement referred to a September 27, 2017 communication by Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith to the university community that states “I am ready to sign the agreement and begin the payments. If the agreement is signed within the next 10 days, the payments can be made with the October 2017 salaries.”
The administration said its “final offer” of six and eight percent were communicated to the union presidents on August 30, 2017 “in the context of what is affordable in keeping with the mandate by the University Council.”
The Administration said it has honored all requests by the unions for financial and other information during the period of the negotiation, which began on July 12.
Increases in salaries and pension, Griffith said, were not the only financial obligations the University has to bear, saying that other benefits such as allowances for travelling, entertainment, uniforms and academic materials; study leave (salary and housing for three months); sabbatical leave (salary and housing for 12 months); leave passage; and duty allowance for Deans, Heads and Co-coordinators must be added to the list.
The University says it continues to pay an average of 4.5 percent merit award to all eligible members of the staff annually.”
“The Vice-Chancellor takes this opportunity to thank the hundreds of dedicated academic and non-academic staff members for their exemplary service, and looks forward to the collective efforts to enhance the University’s teaching and learning, research, and service to the University community and the wider society,” UG said.
UGWU President, Bruce Haynes has said that workers might be willing accept the pay increase offer if they were given sufficient information such as where the money would be drawn from to pay the executive team members.
UG Council decides on tuition fees and salaries
Following intense discussion, the March 30 extra-ordinary meeting of the University of Guyana Council, chaired by Chancellor Eon Nigel Harris, voted to increase tuition fees. In making the decision the Council examined the University’s projected budget deficit, the pressing needs of the University, and projected alternative income streams. Comparative data on private high schools and Universities in Guyana and the Caribbean region were examined and the tuition and fees at all the institutions examined were found to be several times higher than those of The University of Guyana (UG). Even with the unavoidable adjustments, fees at UG will still be comparatively lower.
The Council decision will be applied to tuition fees for all programmes and for both continuing students and new students for the 2017-2018 academic year. However, input from the Student Society was considered, leading to an incremental roll out, where continuing students will now pay an increase of 15% (about G$2500 a month), and new students will be required to pay 18% (about G$3000 a month) more. The Council also decided to incrementally increase the tuition fee by 10 % for 2018-2019 academic year for all students, and a further 10% for all students for 2019-2020.
At the same meeting, the Council also authorised the UG Administration to commence negotiations with the two University Unions for remuneration packages based on what the University could afford. The Council received clarification from the Ministry of Finance that the claim by the unions that the Government of Guyana had provided a fixed sum of money for salaries, which would amount to a 15 percent salary increase, was inaccurate. In this context, the UG Administration will continue to analyse the University’s budget to determine the fullest possible extent of affordability. It also was stressed that staff performance will be a key factor in determining salaries and benefits, whether monetary or non-monetary.
UG IN BRIEF
With a current enrollment of some 8,000 students, The University of Guyana (UG) has graduated more than 20,000 students who have gone on to successful careers locally, regionally and internationally. The University is also a major contributor to the national economy and to business and industry. Established in 1963 on a part-time basis with shared space at Queens College, UG moved to its own campus at Turkeyen in 1970 and expanded in 2000 with the addition of the Tain Campus. It now offers more than 60 Under- graduate and Post-graduate Programmes including the Natural Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Urban Planning and Management, Tourism Studies, Education, Creative Arts, Economics, Law, Medicine, Optometry and Nursing. Several online programmes are available and The UG also offers extra-mural classes at four locations through its Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE). The UG also offers the opportunity for student engagement in debating, sports, and cultural, religious and professional activities.
Public Relations Division
April 6, 2017
- The University of Guyana