21st Century University

In our Editorial of Nov 8th, “21st Century Education”, following the release of our CSEC and CAPE results of our schools, we noted, “addition to the “subjects” being taught changing, the 21st Century methods stress “learning by doing” is replacing the old “passive” method of absorbing information. The changes at the tertiary level have been no less revolutionary. The Robbins Commission of 1963 – the same year the PPP Government launched the University of Guyana – moved English universities away from the old Newman model that focused on the humanities/classics as, for instance, our Queen’s College and Bishops’ had done. England adopted the Humboldian model as an engine of economic growth, a creator of knowledge, and one committed to research and innovation.
Today, we have taken this even further. We are fortunate to be moving out of the Industrial Age of Humboldt into an Information Age that is now segueing into one to be dominated by Artificial Intelligence. We can possibly leapfrog our Guyana’s development by preparing our youths for this new world, which must be at the forefront of change and be drivers of scientific and technological change in Guyana. There are numerous proposals out there, and we offer the excerpts from one – “Tuning into the challenges of the 21st century” – to stimulate discussion.
“We argue that the higher education system needs to embrace a more fluid, more contingent world, to create more permeable relationships within universities’ communities and beyond to wider society. The permeable university removes barriers to interaction, both within the institution and beyond it. Permeability should be the new lens which reframe the historic, core activities of universities; across organisational and national boundaries, between different groups and communities, technologies, and disciplines.
“Embrace students as central to the renewed community of scholars. The process of reflective learning needs to apply to the whole community of scholars, staff and students together. Sharing together and challenging each other creates a more robust university environment.
“Nurture lifelong connections between universities and graduates with continuous learning at the heart of the relationship. As they move on in their careers, graduates will need to repeatedly re-engage and contribute from their experiences beyond university to continually reinvigorate institutions, creating a continuous learning loop. Create space for new adult learners as society changes, where adults can re-find learning appropriate to their changed circumstances.
“Develop near-to-teaching research. There is value in the experience of discovery through research across the disciplines that has direct application in a world where graduates will have to gather knowledge, investigate, learn, and adapt throughout their careers.
“Further the interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary project. The growing complexity and interrelatedness of the challenges that surround us means that inter/ transdisciplinarity needs to go further to enable research teams to come together with an ecosystem approach that can embrace the dynamic (almost living) aspect of research investigation. Bridge the Arts/Science divide, and reconceptualise disciplines to meet 21st-century needs.
“Respond to an age of rapid, widespread opinion formation and amplified participation by connecting with wider society. A core contribution of the research process is to slow things down to answer the big, deep, long-term questions – this can seem particularly at odds with a rapidly changing 21st century. Navigating this divide is tricky but essential, and the approach has to include greater participation and connection to move beyond distrust in expertise to a world where different contributions are recognised, acknowledged, challenged and reformulated.
“Move beyond a single governance structure. Governance in the 21st century is complex and multifaceted. Expecting a single body to complete all aspects of oversight is no longer fit for purpose. Rather, a family of inclusive governance structures relevant to specific needs. Use the full breadth of governance bodies to broaden representation. Boards in themselves cannot be representative of all communities, but there needs to be appropriate debate and diversity threaded throughout the governance structures.”
As proposed, change must begin at the top, which must be imbued that there needs to be a root-and-branch approach to bring UG into the 21st century.”