The University of Guyana observes it 38th year by Dr James Rose
Guyana Chronicle
October 3, 2001

THIRTY-EIGHT years ago in April 1963, by an Act of Parliament, we established the University of Guyana to provide a place of education, learning and research of a standard required and expected of a university of the highest standard, and to secure the advancement of knowledge and the diffusion and extension of arts, sciences and learning throughout Guyana. In October of the same year the University opened its door to 164 students.

The University was first located in temporary premises at Queen’s College until 1969 when it moved to Turkeyen. At its inception, the University offered only general degree programmes. These were gradually upgraded over the ensuing years to include a number of specialisations at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate levels. Today, the University has an enrollment of approximately 5,000 students at its Turkeyen campus, 300 at its Berbice campus and caters for a growing number of students in its distance education programme that reaches nine of our ten Regions.

In order to widen its catchment area at Turkeyen, the University built its first student residency to house 40 first year students in May 1994 at its Turkeyen campus. A second Hall of Residence, to house 44 students, was constructed by the Beharry Group of Companies and opened in February 1999 at Goedverwagting on the East Coast of Demerara.

Cognisant of its role as the premier institution of higher learning for all Guyanese and recognising the geographical limitations of this location, the University established (i) the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education in January 1976 and (ii) the Tain Campus in September 2000.

It is said that the impact of globalisation on higher education would increase in the 21st century, creating the emergence of a global curriculum geared to prepare persons to function at the wider global level.

The University stands ready to play its role in a rapidly evolving knowledge- based learning environment but finds itself handicapped, since, as a consequence of the declining national economic situation, the University is suffering from a grave depletion of its capital stock both human and physical. The University is the foremost tertiary level institution in the country and depends almost exclusively on the public purse to meet its operating cost. The naked truth is that the University currently lacks the resources to maintain and upgrade its learning infrastructure to achieve its objectives and retain its accreditation. The reality is that the University and the nation can no longer persist with the current situation.

Cognisant of the need to reduce its dependence on Government subventions, the University has embarked on a number of initiatives to enhance its self-sustainability. These measures include:

The introduction of tuition fees, A plan to attract more foreign students to its programmes, An increase in its profiling as a research and consultancy institution, Rationalisation/restructuring of its programmes, departments, faculties and management structures as a cost cutting measure to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Increasing its portfolio of income-generating activities.

Nothwithstanding these initiatives, it is realised that much greater assistance is critical if the University is to recover lost ground. Capital provisions are especially critical for the University if it is to be fully equipped to deal with current educational demands, including enhancing its relevance and currency as well as its former standing as a centre of academic excellence, attractive to local and international students, researchers and other pertinent stakeholders.

This re-capitalisation to enable the University to fulfill its mandate is conceived against the background of a marked decline in its human and physical resources. This decline is evidenced in the limitation and dilapidation of its infrastructure, the inability to attract or retain skilled staff, to cater adequately for staff development, the limited research and consultancy materials produced bi-annually, the outdated reading materials, a general lack of new technologies and other innovative learning techniques, together with a large stock of obsolete and/or inoperable equipment.

As we celebrate the 38th anniversary of the founding of the University of Guyana, the time has come for us to revisit the original impulse and to decide whether the urge to have a national University is still strong. If it is then we must together devise ways and means to restore the tattered image and functioning of a University that is generously described in polite circles as a second class institution.