Minimising political intrusion among proposals for reformed UG council

A proposal to minimise “political intrusion” in the University of Guyana’s Council through a revision of the overarching legislation was brought to the newly-appointed body yesterday.

At a press briefing following the council’s first business meeting since its appointment last month, Chancellor E Nigel Harris said that a report submitted by Professor Lawrence Carrington, who led a committee to revisit the governance of the university, was among the business discussed. Carrington is a former Vice-Chancellor of the university.

Harris noted that since the university’s establishment in 1963, the University of Guyana Act has not been revised.

“Over the years of the University of Guyana, and this goes many, many, years, the council itself was politicised and indeed political biases, if you will, did not only appear in the council, but they did in other management decisions within the context of the university…,” Harris related, stating that they want to “do away with the whole question of representation of political parties” and other organisations. Harris said that there are other mechanisms for receiving input from the wider community.

“…What we want to do is to assemble people who have the abilities and skills that can contribute in very meaningful ways to the governance of the university in terms of oversight and strategic planning, in terms of its financial management, financial culpability, in terms of its policy making…you’re trying to get the best talents that can contribute to the rest of the organization rather than saying we designate political groups in order to represent, because that does not serve the University of Guyana,” Harris asserted.

“The intent is to reduce the vulnerability of the university’s operations to political intrusion into the management,” Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith later stated.

Other recommendations in the proposal, according to Harris, are for a reduction in the number of persons on the council; the reexamination of the roles of the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor; and a more accountable system that requires the university to make a report of its activities and finances.

Harris related that the aim is to create a more “efficient and effective entity” and he opined that in cases where there is trouble separating “oversight” from “management,” this usually works to the detriment of the university.

Asked about the extent to which government would be involved with the new proposed structure, Harris said that it is expected that there will be representation from the ministries of Education and Finance.

Griffith related that consultations will be taken to the wider university community before the final proposal goes to council. He also noted that there are other key players that would play a role, such as the Attorney General, whose expertise would be needed to assist with the formal drafting of the legislation.

“This is an important moment for the university, a moment of transformation and its essential that its governance—its Act, statutes—be modernised in keeping with what we hope is going to be a more modern and dynamic university,” said Harris.

Griffith stated that while there may not be unanimity in the decision, there was a “sense” at yesterday’s council meeting that “what is proposed takes us a far way ahead to building a genuine university….”

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