The process used to select the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG) has been hailed as transparent, with Nigerian-born Professor Jacob Opadeyi indisputably outdoing the other three candidates based on overall scores.
“We felt the trust is in the Vice-Chancellor and that he can stand scrutiny and that the students, the academic community, the public can feel that we’ve all done our best and that we would be able to reach and to say to the community and to the country ‘here is the Vice Chancellor of Guyana, a man that we feel is the best of all the candidates although all four are excellent candidates’”, University Council member Gail Teixeira told a media briefing yesterday at the Education Lecture Theatre at the Turkeyen Campus.
Teixeira, also the presidential advisor on governance and a Member of Parliament, reiterated that the process was transparent and with four top notch candidates, the university body saw for the first time, persons competing for the position of VC appearing before the student society, the academic council, delivering public lectures and also having to be interviewed by a panel.
“They even had to go to Berbice so that even [before] the final cut, whoever was chosen, people were aware of this person… I think one has to understand that there is a genuine effort on the part of the council members to really try to put this university on the right track and therefore, the naysayers who now want to analyze it and divide it and all this, they must be careful with what they do. The building of trust and confidence is probably the most important ingredient for this university and probably not only the university but the entire Guyana. It is the most important ingredient to try to change the track the university has been on,” Teixeira said.
Council Member Dr Rupert Roopnaraine said that the decision to select Professor Opadeyi did not need compromise. “There was no bargaining or nothing of the kind. The candidates were scored, the scores were totalled and Professor Opadeyi had the highest aggregated score. There was really nothing to argue about or to seek compromise,” he affirmed.
Roopnaraine also said that on the interview panel, the student body was strongly represented by the UGSS President, Ganesh Mahipaul, and that as part of the programme the interaction with students was very wide. “At no stage did the candidates lose sight what the university was about—its students—and what needs to be done to ensure that we turn out the highest quality of students. The students’ point of view was very strongly represented on the interview panel,” he pointed out.
Registrar Vincent Alexander also told reporters that Opadeyi has related to him that he would first acquaint himself with the country and the environment in which he will be settled. It is hoped that by the end of January into February the new Vice-Chancellor will be installed.
A breath of fresh air
According to Teixeira, the council, which was put in place last September, has brought “a breath of fresh air” unlike the previous one—of which she was a part—which was filled with acrimony. “This council has a grouping of individuals from various sides and [we] have been able to prove that in a short period of time we can reach a consensus on the issues within the council,” Teixeira said, adding that the process was unprecedented. “We committed ourselves, members of the council and the sub-committee, that we would live with the results,” she pointed out.
She further stated that as a council, members have to be allowed to make changes and that this process has begun with the selection of the Vice-Chancellor in a new way. “Each candidate was asked, ‘what is your vision for this university?’ Each came up with their view, with their thoughts, their ideas and so the focus was on how do we make this university better and to be able to confront some of the issues and find solutions. There are no magic wands,” she said. However, Teixeira pointed out that there are developments brewing such as the Caribbean Development Bank Project, which will address the entire framework of the university, and the World Bank project, which will soon see the first flow of money released to allow the science and technology projects to move forward. Efforts also include regular stakeholder meetings, Teixeira said.
In supporting statements, Pro Chancellor of UG Prem Misir described the selection as a starting process to mobilize other plans. “We gotta start somewhere, we gotta start with this but very soon hopefully, we might see some refined changes structurally within the university and then you might probably see a different kind of organizational behaviour I think this campus badly needs. We are getting there,” he stated.
Misir said that there are problems not only at the University but throughout the region and elsewhere where there are serious quality assurance problems. All needed to be corrected and this may be done with a new structure. “Teaching and learning [are] a very critical part. Also student affairs have to be given higher prominence because there are a lot of times when students need professional assistance outside of the classroom and that’s not readily available. In other places, you have Vice President for student affairs and Dean for student affairs and so on so we want to do that, at least these are minor things that I feel should come,” Misir said when asked of the expectations followed by Opadeyi’s appointment. He also stated that at an administrative level, they are looking to improve the standard of teaching and standard of research.
“There is a great deal of many different aspects in the higher education aspect that have been quite deficient at this university and I hope that with the Caribbean Develop-ment Bank report and the new Vice-Chancellor, we see some more aggressive movement in improving the quality of teaching and learning at the university of Guyana,” he stated.