Today the University of Guyana (UG) will launch of The Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Centre for Behavioural Sciences and Research and its master’s programme in psychology.
Over the years there have been calls for the University to 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 of.
There were several calls made before for drastic improvements at the University if the institution was to become a modern learning facility. The current administration at the University has shown that it has a good grasp of what needs to be done and to its credit, has taken some notable steps in this regard.
We believe UG could indeed become a well-recognised institution across the Caribbean region; one which will 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 there is much restructuring and reforming (both in administrative and academic terms) that needs to be done before this could be achieved.
Problems of dysfunctional classrooms, shortage of lecturers, outdated curriculum, inadequate laboratory facilities, etc, are only part of the problem. It is well know that the issue of inadequate financing continues to plague the University. The University’s current financial constraints have not only limited capital development, but have adversely affected its ability to offer staff much deserving compensation and research facilities.
In addition to the work that needs to be done to enhance the infrastructure and other aesthetics at the University’s campuses, 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.
There is also need to continue to explore ways in which the current remuneration and benefits package for lecturers and staff could be improved since UG cannot at any point produce the “best of the best” students if it cannot retain the minds that are responsible for the moulding of those who seek higher learning.
The demands of the University are significant and ever-changing, and to continuously meet them there must be a sustainable source of financing as Professor Compton Bourne had said; and this goes beyond the annual subvention the University receives from Government. 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 master’s 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. For example, the state of the laboratories in the Science and Technology faculties remains a sore issue and needs to be brought up to standard with what obtains in other countries.
Further, with Guyana being an emerging 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. On this basis, we are encouraged to see that the University is partnering with the University of the West Indies (UWI) to offer Master’s and Associate Degrees 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.
UG would seriously need 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.
By now, many calls have been made for adequate financing to inject new life into the University of Guyana. We firmly believe that those calls need to be urgently fulfilled for the benefit of the country and its people.