January 30, 2007
COMING on the heels of a recent furore, primarily in the print media, concerning the state of the University of Guyana, Minister of Education Shaik Baksh has come out with the statement that significant changes are soon to be announced.
In an article we published yesterday, Mr. Baksh mentioned – among other initiatives within a five-year strategic plan to revamp UG – a "sizeable loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)" to boost technical education, presumably at the university and elsewhere.
While it is good that international or regional loan agencies can show some confidence in the education sector in Guyana, somewhere along the line the university administration has to take their focus off of loans and start looking at investment.
Grants and donations, for example, constitute a sizeable chunk of tertiary academic funding at other universities across the world and the only real returns most grant organisations or donors look for is academic excellence in whatever field of research they are funding – or their name on a building or two. The Edward B. Beharry Hall of Residence is a good example of how donors can contribute to some aspect of the university's overall enhancement while asking nothing in return.
Another area would be partnerships with corporate entities. To date, the only sustained corporate involvement would be the annual prizes or scholarships handed out by some companies for best graduating students in various faculties.
Corporate partnerships with the university can benefit the university greatly, once companies feel that they will be getting some return on their investment.
Last September for example, Microsoft – the largest software company in the world – launched its IT Academy at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus.
"We at Microsoft believe," said George Gobin, General Manager for Microsoft West Indies, "in the power of the knowledge economy as a catalyst to socio-economic growth and development. In every country where we operate, we work to develop a platform which can generate technical innovation, jobs and enhanced IT capability.
Indeed, it is a vision we share with educational providers such as UWI and which creates the basis for partnerships such as the one we are embarking upon today."
Such partnerships have enormous spill over benefits to the rest of the society. Through the IT Academy, for example, it is mandatory for primary and secondary school teachers to be given certifiable training.
In the United States, corporate involvement in tertiary education has reached its zenith.
Law firms provide internships for the top legal students across the country before graduation. The best and brightest chemistry students are being snapped up in droves by pharmaceutical companies, computer whiz kids by companies like Microsoft and Google.
Industry has in fact begun to shape academia to the point where new sectors like videogame design have dictated the creation of new programmes at several universities across America.
Every single department of the University of Guyana can, given time, be leveraged to add value to the operation of the institution as a whole – from the Humanities to Science and Technology.