University finances ‘fragile’
-warns Dr Rose at graduation ceremony
By Edlyn Benfield
Stabroek News
November 12, 2002

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Vice-Chancellor, Dr. James Rose has warned that the University of Guyana faces a fragile financial situation in light of reduced student intake and a cut of $33M in support from the government.

Dr. Rose was speaking at an “eventful” 36th Convocation Ceremony where over one thousand graduands received their Diploma and Degree certificates last Saturday evening.

Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) Programme Manager, Margaret Lawrence won the Prime Minister’s Medal for best graduating student with a Diploma in Public Management when the University of Guyana (UG) held its 36th Convocation ceremony last Saturday. In this Ken Moore photo, Lawrence (left) beams proudly as Prime Minister Samuel Hinds bestows the honour.

The graduands represented the Faculties of Arts, Agriculture, Education, the Health, Natural and Social Sciences, Law and Technology, with Social Sciences producing the majority with a batch of 581.

Shortly before the evening’s proceedings started, Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Desiree Bernard, who was scheduled to present the feature address, became ill and was subsequently hospitalised.

And midway through the convocation, a sudden blackout would have effectively halted the event except for the quick action of technicians in powering the stand-by generator. This was not before graduands spent five minutes chanting “GPL must go!” About half hour later, after power was restored, a brief downpour had graduands, officials, parents and other guests running in all directions for cover. It was quite some time before there was some semblance of order.

Professor Aubrey Bishop read the Chancellor’s address and complimented the graduands on their accomplishments while acknowledging the sacrifices they undoubtedly made in their pursuit of excellence.

“You scaled the mountain and now you are at the summit,” Justice Bernard had written.

She urged the graduands to shun “mediocrity” as they enter another phase in the evolution of their professional lives.

Experience was often more highly valued and in some cases, more valuable than qualifications in the workplace today, the Chancellor further remarked, as she implored each graduand to consider their achievement as an induction into their individual career rather than as having reached the “pinnacle”.

“It is better to have common sense without education, than to have education without common sense,” the Chancellor suggested.

Dr Rose described the academic year of 2002 as one of the most challenging for the institution’s 39 years of existence.

In presenting the report on the university’s internal affairs, he noted a reduction of 197 in the number of students enrolled: 4789 compared with 4976 last year.

Dr. Rose described UG’s financial position as “fragile” with input from government, its largest contributor, totalling $485.8M in student fees, $299.8M in an annual subvention and a capital vote of $14M.

Dr. Rose said UG’s operations were dealt a severe blow after the Ministry of Finance indicated a reduction in the recurrent subvention of $253M allocated to the institution for 2001 to $220M this year.

“The loss of $33M was compounded by a shortfall of $40.8M from estimated tuition fees due to lower student registration and a $35M unbudgeted 7.5% salary increase,” Dr. Rose stated.

Further, the total recurrent income for the year was $982.1M of which $635.2M came from tuition fees, $299.8M annual subvention and $447.1M from other sources.

The major investments included the construction of the $200M information technology building, the $40M Lecture Room Complex financed by the Endowment Fund, and the $16M agriculture building funded by the Guyana Forestry Commission with assistance from DFID.

The projects which were aborted, included the erection of the $60M laboratory building and the extension of the Biodiversity Centre at a cost of $18M. Efforts to restore the telephone system and to construct a building to diminish administrative overcrowding in the Vice-Chancellery also failed.

Additionally, Dr. Rose pointed out, the drafting and retention of better qualified staff, expansion of the physical plan, particularly in providing more lecture room space, retooling the laboratories, modernising the library and engaging in a vigorous staff development programme are among areas of concern.

Highlighting the year’s positive occurrences, Dr. Rose commended the newly installed Chancellor, Professor Calestous Juma, saying “his tremendous influence has facilitated a number of important initiatives.”

Also, the appointment of Professor Winston McGowan to the Walter Rodney Chair, the attainment of the “George Beckford Award in Caribbean Economics” by Professor Clive Thomas and the organisation of Career Day 2002 were some of the highpoints.

Dr. Rose concluded that the university was obliged, “ discuss our aims and purposes with the state, with employers and with other interested stakeholders. Fora must also be convened to constructively debate the burning issues of our time and our role in the national development process.”

Winner of the President’s medal for the best graduating student with a Bachelor’s Degree, John Forde, dedicated his achievement to the memory of his mother and to his wife.

Delivering his valedictorian address, Forde saluted the graduands and encouraged them to face their challenges head on. He appealed to the government to invest in the nation’s youth by contributing to UG with specific concentration in the area of Social Sciences.

Remarking on the tendency by employers to recruit personnel with at least four years experience, Forde appealed for those embarking on their new careers to be given an opportunity to gain the experience by first being employed.

Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) Programme Manager, Margaret Lawrence won the Prime Minister’s Medal while Cyril Potter College of Education Lecturer, Michael Hackett won the Chancellor’s Medal.

Medals for the best graduating student for Law, Chemistry and Computer Science went to Marcella Hinds, Tito Bourne and Ruth Wilson. Recipients of the Banks DIH awards included Rohini Deokarran and Richard Persaud.

Among those present at the ceremony were acting President Sam Hinds, Chairman of the Guyana Relief Council, Yvonne Hinds and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Reepu Daman Persaud.

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