University of Guyana needs revolutionary transformation, not reforms

Dear Editor,

Over the recent years, I presented several viewpoints on higher education, and today, I want to add another dimension. Recently, I presented the following issues to the media: Stagnant Universities & Ineffectual Monuments;  Efficiencies to Reduce Cost at Universities; Financial Cutbacks at British Universities; Universities & Colleges will not be the Same under Globalization and Competition; The Singapore Statement on Research Integrity; Universities must show Economic Outcomes in Quantifiable Language.

In ‘Financial Cutbacks at British Universities’ on April 9, 2011, I noted: “Late last year, the British Government announced a major budget cut in higher education, as part of its overall spending review arising from the international financial meltdown.

The British Government expects to cut its budget to universities by 40% for the next four years from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion. Mathematics, engineering, science, and technology, deemed as prioritized courses, will continue to receive appropriate teaching funds; this will not be the case for humanities and social sciences. The preceding Labour Government, too, had a proposal of £600 million in higher education budget cuts for a shorter time period. I should also add that the Obama Administration in its 2012 budget earmarked a higher education budget cut of US$89 billion over a 10-year period.

Amid this financial turbulence, Phil Batey (Times Higher Education) noted in Britain the quick spate of dismissals/resignations of several Vice Chancellors/Rector in a mere few months in 2009 – Martin Everett of the University of East London, Sir Roy Anderson of Imperial College, University of London, Simon Lee of Leeds Metropolitan University, and Malcolm Gillies of the City University, London.

These resignations/dismissals of Vice Chancellors/Rector are about governance and accountability concerns…” Clearly, there is a fiscal crisis in relation to universities decreased funding, and, therefore, some dramatic reorganizational adjustments are necessary.

And now, on August 4, 2011, Deloitte released the higher education report Making the Grade 2011 against a background of decreased government funding, limited endowments, and increasing costs. Deloitte recruited consultants from 12 countries to review issues facing universities. Here are the 10 issues examined:

1. Over budget and underfunded

2. Rivalry, competition to attract the best students intensifies

3. Setting priorities, the danger of making decisions in the dark

4. Technology upgrades are needed across the board

5. Rethinking infrastructure, a renewed focus on asset optimisation

6. Linking programmes to outcomes, where training and market demand intersect

7. Attracting and retaining talented faculty

8. A sustainable future by enhancing environmental performance

9. Tackling diversity, accessibility and affordability

10. Regulations and reporting, new responsibilities require better disclosure”

And Jack Grove writing for THE noted that the report called for revolutionary transformation of management systems, faculty, and curricula; disbanding the status quo; bringing in new leaders, and a diverse faculty. Grove indicated that the report saw in universities a “proclivity towards promoting leading academics to leadership roles rather than identifying (potentially private sector) candidates” …and where administrators are “creatures of habit” unaccustomed to the role of “paving new ground”. The report called for “Streamlining business processes and back-end systems…” And the report added, “Institutions are slow to phase out programmes that no longer meet evolving student needs or to introduce new programmes that lack a proven track record,” …“They must rationalise redundant programmes, evaluate the continued relevance of costly ones and ensure that their curricula keep pace with market changes.” Grove in THE said   that there needs to be greater web-based  student interaction and online educational support.

I want to say, too, that the University of Guyana is not sacrosanct in the face of decreased funding, and the urgent need for cost reviews and general reorganization in relation to staffing, the curriculum review variable and its correlation with national development needs, quality assurance, and rethinking of school/faculty/departmental social infrastructure.

The University’s strategic plan is archaic and fails to address significant issues that demand proactive responses; it requires essential strategies and the adoption of current innovative international best practices in higher education.

There is hardly a trace of web-based student interaction and online education support. And the Berbice Campus needs some serious autonomy with an academic faceover in light of Turkeyen’s perennial, silly stranglehold on its innovative academic potential.

Any additional funding from the Govern-ment of Guyana must as a precondition require a cost review in relation to the curriculum-national needs variable, full and part-time faculty, and registered students.

The current management dispensation for reforms at this University is not working because the University needs a revolutionary transformation, not reforms. The University needs innovators.

In recent times, I have said quite a lot on how other universities in the face of reduced funding, poor social infrastructure, etc., remain steadfast in their pursuit of new strategies and reorganization.

The time for change at this University is now.

Yours faithfully,
Prem Misir

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