The issue regarding the challenges the University of Guyana (UG) continues to face in attracting and retaining highly-competent and qualified staff was once again brought to the fore at an event last Thursday. Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Paloma Mohamed was quoted in this newspaper as saying that the institution has been suffering from lack of resources for many years and as such, some of their operations are being stymied.
Dr Mohamed related that the current salaries paid to staff, especially lecturers, are incapable of financially sustaining them and as a result, they end up leaving for greener pastures. It was also pointed out that this situation has affected the level of the institution’s output in terms of research and publishing of academic papers etc.
“The University’s own kind of dysfunctional faculty distribution is something like that and it is not like this in most other places. We have about 63 per cent of the people working with master’s degrees and below. We have about 30 PhDs in the whole University, which is about 10 per cent and about 50 per cent of those are in higher administration and not teaching,” Dr Mohamed was quoted as saying.
Certainly, the views expressed by the Deputy VC are nothing new. For years, the nation was told of these same challenges, but it seems as if a solution is nowhere close. Certainly, everyone wants to see UG advance into a better and more modern learning tertiary institution— one that would take its rightful place in terms of helping in nation-building and one that both students and lecturers and all others associated with it would be proud.
The University’s current financial constraints have adversely affected its ability to offer staff much-deserving compensation and research facilities. There is urgent need for the authorities to continue to explore ways in which the current remuneration and benefit packages for lecturers and staff could be improved since UG cannot, at any point, produce the “best of the best” if it cannot retain the minds that are responsible for the moulding of those who seek higher learning.
The University’s administration should seek to aggressively engage governments, international development partners, private sector organisations and civil society in an effort to garner support for the development of the university. The institution seriously needs to look beyond central government and to some extent, donors for its finances; it would need to examine alternative ways in raising funds to sustain itself as other international learning institutions have been doing in order to remain competitive.
As we had stated before, the demands of the University are significant and ever-changing, and to continuously meet them, there must be a sustainable source of financing. Sustainable financing must be able to do more than just meet the basic expenses. Financing must be there to upgrade the University’s infrastructure in order to give it an appearance of a modern learning institution, provide students with the latest books, technologies and knowledge; provide modern research facilities that enable students to probe and test existing knowledge and to find new ones, and offer students more disciplines to choose from and that includes a wider variety of masters and doctorate programmes.
On this basis, we agree that there is need to establish a platform where the public, the private sector, Government, and the University can form crucial partnerships to fund research, the delivery of technology, student services and other necessities.
With Guyana being on the cusp of becoming an oil and gas economy, UG should be at the forefront in providing the skills and knowledge needed to allow our policymakers to make the right decisions in moving the sector forward. That said, it is encouraging to see that the University is now offering courses in Petroleum Engineering. These offerings must be widened to include other areas of expertise that would be needed to allow Guyana to develop into a modern, developed country.
We believe that UG could indeed become a ‘forward thinking’ institution that can attract a large number of foreign students and serve as an authority on national, regional and international issues for governments, private individuals and businesses, but the sore issues, once again raised by the Deputy VC last Thursday, must be addressed once and for all.