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The graduands achieved their Bachelor's Degree and Diploma certificates in the areas of Arts, Natural and Social Sciences, Technology, Agriculture, Education, Social Work among others.
"The fact that you are graduating today is eloquent testimony that you honoured those commitments and you have realised your dreams. This I am sure was not achieved without setbacks. There must have been times when you thought seriously of quitting or dropping out when the going was a bit forbidding," Ms. Bernard observed and added: "However you persevered and overcame the difficulties. You survived. You scaled the mountain and now you are at the summit."
Her prepared speech was read by Professor Aubrey Bishop as she became unfortunately ill yesterday and had to be hospitalised just before the start of the 36th Convocation Ceremony of the University of Guyana.
In her address, she appealed to the graduands not to become arrogant even though "a bit of intellectual arrogance is good" but noted that sometimes theory and practice do not synchronise and some things in life can only be learnt by experience. "It is better to have common sense without education, than to have education without common sense," the Chancellor posited.
It is necessary to focus now on what lies ahead, and not be overcome by euphoria because this can be a crucial stage in life which demands additional adjustments, Ms. Bernard explained and added: "Much is expected of you, and you have much to offer. The hard part has now begun." She also urged the graduands to put into practice the knowledge and skills that they have acquired during their enduring course of study.
Academic heads of the University of Guyana at the 36th Convocation Ceremony.
"Again I exhort you do not to feel that you have arrived at the pinnacle and know everything there is to know. Much, much more knowledge awaits you out there. Go on to higher heights. You can and will succeed," the Chancellor advised.
She reminded graduands of the ongoing globalisation process and rapid changes in knowledge which necessitate that they aim at excellence and not mediocrity in order to be able to compete effectively with their counterparts from other parts of the world. "What is relevant today, is irrelevant tomorrow," she pointed out.
Touching on the obligations of graduands to the University and the country, Justice Bernard dispelled the notion that because university education is no longer free there are no obligations, she asserted that this is an erroneous view and urged the graduands to remain committed and loyal to the university and their country. She contended that while tuition fees have to be paid the cost of maintaining the university is enormous, as such much has been invested in ensuring that tertiary education is available. Therefore, "you are obligated to give back to your country" observing that loyalty and gratitude in today's world are "in short supply."
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor James Rose has described this year as a very challenging one. Delivering his address to the 36th Convocation Ceremony of the tertiary institution, he declared: "2002 was perhaps one of the most challenging years in the University's 39 years of experience. Yet the fact that we are gathered here this afternoon for the annual convocation ceremony is ample testimony to the fact that, in spite of it all, we have completed our teaching assignments. This reflects favourable on the character of the University, its ability to adapt, re-strategise and cope with the challenges that confronted us on a daily basis."
He added: Twenty-first century academic life is no longer pursued in seclusion (if it ever was) but rather must articulate and demonstrate reason and imagination in engagement with the wider society and the many critical and current concerns of our society."
The mission of tertiary institutions therefore must be much wider than merely to perpetuate the life of "scholarship for its own sake" and in the current situation is required to become the "engine of development."
"In the current environment and historical conjunction we are obliged to discuss our aims and purposes with the state, with employers and with interested stakeholders. Fora must also be convened to constructively debate the burning issues of our times and our role in the national development process, the Vice-Chancellor offered.
However, he observed that the University has been faced with several constraints which have impacted negatively on its functioning.
The Vice-Chancellor reported that the financial position of the campus continued to be fragile, the largest financial contributor being the Government contributing $485.8 in student fees, $299.8M in an annual subvention and a capital vote of $14M.
He also pointed out that the reduction of the recurrent subvention of $253M allocated to the University was reduced by $33M, a shortfall of $40.8M from estimated tuition fees and an unbudgeted 7.55 salary increase "dealt a severe blow" to its operations.
The enrolment figure for 2001/2002 showed a reduction by 197 students over the previous year which was 4, 789, while, 1, 472 persons were offered places for undergraduate courses, representing a reduction of 475.
Overall there was a reduction in enrolment in the faculties of Agriculture, Arts, Health, Natural and Social Sciences, however, there were small but significant increases in the faculties of Education and Technology, Professor Rose disclosed.
The functioning of the institution is also affected by difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified staff, retooling of laboratories, modernising of the library and a vigorous staff development programme, the Vice-Chancellor disclosed.
Industrial action called by the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) also severely disrupted University services and in spite of a 7.5 per cent salary increase the industrial climate remains very fragile, the Vice Chancellor pointed out.
However, he noted that there were a number of high points during the past academic year, among them the installation of Professor Calestous Juma as Chancellor, the awarding of the George Beckford Award in Caribbean Economics to professor Clive Thomas and the links that have been established between the University and a number of prestigious foreign universities.