A task force set up to examine the governance structure of the University Of Guyana (UG) has recommended that the membership of the university’s governing council be severely pared down and its functions restricted to policy formation so that the Vice-Chancellor (VC) can have greater autonomy in the day-to-day running of the institution.
Speaking on Tuesday at a Media Luncheon to mark the end of his second year in office, Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith noted that with the permission of the University Council, the task force, led by Professor Lawrence Carrington, was constituted to review the governance structure of the university.
After a year and a half of work, the task force is set to present its recommendations on July 26th at an extraordinary meeting of the council.
Among the recommendations to be presented is a call for “no partisan political representation or special interest representation on the university council.”
Griffith noted that the current University of Guyana Act requires that representatives from the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, American University of State Colleges and Universities, Committee for International Cooperation and Higher Education of the United Kingdom be included in the council, yet these bodies are “not interested in us.”
“Governance recommendation is that there should be a slimmer governance council focused on competencies and not special interest representation. That is a significant recommendation to what is proposed as the current governance arrangement,” Griffith stressed.
UG Registrar Dr. Nigel Gravesande further explained that the intention of the task force was to ensure that there was a greater level of intellectual autonomy at the university.
“The contraction of its membership ought not to be interpreted that sectoral interests would not be taken into consideration, but mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that these interests find their way into the governance operations, whether it is at the level of the Council that they be invited or the Academic Board, for example, to which private sector’s involvement in curriculum review, curriculum refocusing to meet the developmental needs can in fact be catered for,” he explained.
Reminding that there existed a nine month gap between the expiration of the last council and the establishment of the current one, Gravesande noted that the recommendation will allow for a seamless transition from one council to the other as appointments will not be blocked.
He stressed too that the recommendation will allow the Chief Executive, the VC, to have greater autonomy since the council will deal with policy and the VC will deal with “operational issues with a mechanism for accountability that is clear.”
“For the last 50 years, one saw an intrusion by the University Council into operational issues of the university; the day-to-day administration,” he stressed.
Gravesande noted that the existence of a “mechanism for accountability” will prevent a rogue administration from developing as the VC will have to report on all activities on a regular basis.
Griffith also noted that the existence of several reporting structures outside of the council will prevent the development of a runaway VC as there is the “Academic Board, the Finance and General Purposes Committee, and the Council of Deans.”
Griffith and Gravesande both indicated that if approved by Council, the recommendations would have to be approved by the National Assembly as an Amendment to the current University of Guyana Act.
Griffith has already met with Attorney General Basil Williams in expectation of this reality.
The University of Guyana Act currently states that the Council shall consist of 26 members, including the Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, and Principal and Vice-Chancellors. The other members, according to the Act, must be drawn as follows: One person to be nominated by the Committee of Deans; one person to be nominated by the Academic Board; one from the Guild of Graduates; one from the Student Society; one from the University of Guyana Workers’ Union; one from the Ministry of Education and Cultural Development; one from the Ministry of Finance; one from the political party in office; one from the minority leader; four from Non-Governmental Organisations which in the opinion of the minister best represents the interest of women, farmers, Amerindians and business; one from the Guyana Trades Union Congress; three by the Minister to contribute in the field of medicine and law; six persons identified by the Chancellor and of which one shall be from each of the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, American University of State Colleges and Universities, Committee for International Cooperation and Higher Education of the United Kingdom and the University of the West Indies (UWI).