Come next semester, the University of Guyana (UG) will be opening the doors of its new School of Entrepreneur-ship and Business Innovation (SEBI), an initiative which Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith says is reflective of a re-examination of the relevance and delivery of the institution’s programmes “in keeping with national development, industry needs, student-centred learning and faculty development.”
In a nutshell, all of this means that the University of Guyana, having undergone a re-examination of the relevance of its curriculum to the country’s developmental needs, is shifting gears, refashioning its offerings, making a more persuasive case for its role as a developmental tool.
This is not the first time that the issue of matching UG’s curriculum offerings to the skills needs of the country has been the subject of public discourse, except that this time around we are witnessing the actualization of an initiative that seeks to take the process forward. In the past, the issue has stopped at the juncture of discourses and sometimes at bilateral engagements between the university and some private sector entities out of which has materialized limited institutional support for UG. Up until now the complete partnership envisaged in the creation of SEBI has failed to materialize.
This newspaper has seen a detailed Feasibility Study Report that preceded the fashioning of SEBI which envisions as an institution that possesses the practical capacity to define existing problems facing the local business community and help to find solutions; identify and illustrate economic opportunities in the society; possess a research component as well as a mentorship programme for emerging entrepreneurs. Additionally, SEBI is expected to ensure that its packages, apart from being “academically inclined” must also be underpinned by the kind of practicality to which the business sector can be responsive.
And according to Griffith, SEBI is being envisaged as a microcosm of what he sees as a broader philosophical shift envisaged for UG as a whole. SEBI’s focus on creating a nexus between its curriculum and the unfolding socio-economic direction of Guyana as a whole, can, he believes, galvanize the university into a more holistic spirit of enterprise that will serve as a platform from which to sell itself as an institution that seeks to provide practical responses to many of the country’s critical needs rather than wholly immerse itself in academia. If UG will remain a state-run university, SEBI is being seen as a mechanism that will kick start a relevance that goes beyond the orthodoxy of a conventional curriculum.
And in keeping with its focus on seeking to hit the ground running, SEBI has already engaged the Public Service Ministry, the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Guyana Defence Force with a view to offering specific executive programmes aimed at responding to the needs of their personnel. Short courses will also be offered “to address the needs of business and government employees for whom speedy acquisition of specific skill sets is necessary.” These short courses, Stabroek Business understands, seek to target, particularly, individuals whose specialized areas of training might not have exposed them to specific disciplines (for example, a medical practitioner who may require training in financial accounting or strategic planning and implementation).
SEBI will also be aiming to have its infrastructure reach a level of state-of-the-art technology that allows for some courses to be delivered online. This capability will allow courses and programmes to access lecturers from outside the university.
SEBI has emerged from exhaustive engagements between the university and both the public and private sectors as well as the intellectual effort of a Feasibility Study Team that included highly qualified Guyanese in the diaspora many of whom hold key administrative and academic positions at highly reputable universities in the United States. In effect, SEBI was fashioned against the backdrop of robust academic and intellectual guidance as well as experience garnered from a practical understanding of the deficiencies of both the public and private sectors as articulated by some of the country’s most experienced public and private sector administrators and executives.
What SEBI does is to incorporate several of UG’s existing programmes in areas that include Accounting, Banking and Finance, Management, and Marketing and Tourism Management into its own curriculum whilst adding new programmes in areas that include entrepreneurship and supply chain management. The school will offer undergraduate degrees that focus on these areas as well as Masters and Executive Masters degrees in Entrepreneurship, General Management, Supply Chain Management and Sustainable Management in addition to a joint degree programme with UG’s Faculty of Earth Sciences.
But that is not all. SEBI, Professor Griffith told Stabroek Business, will seek to go beyond simply responding to the stated needs of the public and private sector. Arising out of its own understanding of the skills needs of the business sector, SEBI will form partnerships with the private sector to fashion tailored training programmes that may range from a few days to much longer and which will seek to target what are agreed to be specific areas of weakness, so that the relationship between the school and the business community will be a dynamic and continually evolving one.