Guyanese Dr Cary Fraser was installed as President of the University of Belize, Belmopan, on August 24 last. In an address at his installation entitled ‘The Modern University and the Future’ he referred to Belizean Dr Carla Barnett’s identification of the roles of the university, namely, developing human resource capacity and creating knowledge. Expanding on this he went on to say that in order to perform those roles, “we must think of the university in multi-generational terms… and we should be prepared to make our contribution to the institution’s longevity and the development of its intellectual traditions.”
“Knowledge, like capital,“ he said, “works best when it is used to create skills, opportunities, and a wider constituency invested in acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is, in fact, intellectual capital that needs to be invested to secure a return on the investment which can then create new avenues for investment. No society in the contemporary world can expect to create opportunities for its future generations without the replenishment and reinvestment of its intellectual capital… A society that fails to provide access to a dynamic and effective university education for its citizens is a society that will lose its way.”
Dr Fraser told his audience that academics cannot be concerned only with acquiring knowledge, but also needed to disseminate it to decision-makers and the public. “The university,” he said, “is an invaluable vehicle for setting an example in the promotion of citizen engagement in public life. It provides a space for serious, well-informed analysis and thoughtful debate.”
As for the students, Dr Fraser said that as well as providing skills training, a university should also encourage them to become “citizens who use their knowledge to improve the life of their societies.”
Finally, he made reference to the fact that universities are increasingly part of a networked world, which while spurring “innovation and intellectual sophistication… also requires greater discipline to use knowledge constructively.” The challenge for the university would be to find ways to ensure that online education quality is equivalent to what is offered through face-to-face interaction in a classroom.
“In sum,“ he concluded, “the university remains a place in which the diversity of the human experience – across generations, across cultures, and across fields of knowledge – will provide the stimulus for us to learn and to think… Let us celebrate the promise and the passions that the university engenders in all of us for whom the life of the mind is a path to personal and professional fulfilment…“
In photo newly installed President of the University of Belize, Dr Cary Fraser delivers his inaugural address (Photo courtesy University of Belize)