The University of Guyana takes this opportunity to respond to the article by Freddie Kissoon, titled
`Dr Mark Kirton is livid, confused and wants to know what’s going on’, carried in the Kaieteur News on
August 29, 2018.
In the article, the University of Guyana’s right to confer honorary doctorate degrees was questioned. Reference was made to a recent announcement by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, that the institution will be conferring honorary doctorate degrees at the University’s 2018 Convocation.
In addressing this issue, it must be noted that the practice of granting honorary degrees, including honorary doctorates, dates to the Middle Ages. The title of Honorary Doctor is bestowed on a recipient as an honour, without the usual requirements or functions such as matriculation, a dissertation, and the passing of examinations. The purpose of honorary awards is to recognise individuals of distinction who have made a significant contribution to a University, a Nation or to society in general. An award is designed both to recognise the individual as well as enhance the reputation of the University.
However, the bone of contention in the article appears to be “how can UG offer three honorary doctorates when UG never offered even one doctoral programme in its entire existence?” Fact check: At present, the University offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Biodiversity (PhD) in the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and the Faculty of Natural Sciences. This programme was approved by the University’s Academic Board in 2015, before the arrival of Vice-Chancellor Griffith, and the class comprises students from Belize, Fiji, Jamaica, Suriname and Guyana.
Notwithstanding that fact, a university does not have to be a doctoral granting institution to confer honorary doctorate degrees. For instance, within the past two years at least two universities in the Caribbean conferred Honorary Doctorate Degrees while not offering academic doctoral programmes, according to the websites of those institutions. On July 24, 2017 the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean in Jamaica conferred the Honorary Doctor of Business Administration on Gary Hendrickson, CEO of Continental Baking Co. Ltd in Jamaica, in recognition of his achievements in Business and Industry. Further, on July 1, 2018 the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago conferred an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Dr. Walter B.T. Douglas for his dedication to Christian Education.
It is important to note that the University of Guyana Act, which dates to 1963, in the section that pertains to the power to confer degrees, 18 (e); grants the University the legal authority “to confer Honorary Degrees and other distinctions, provided that all degrees and other distinctions so conferred shall be
conferred and held subject to any provision which are or may be made in reference thereto by the university”.
Additionally, the University’s Statutes, at Statute 15, which deals with Powers of the Academic Board, states: “The Academic Board shall be the academic authority of the University and shall have the control and general direction of research, instruction and examination and of the award of Degrees, Certificates and other distinctions”. Further, that Statute vests the Academic Board with the power “to make recommendations to the Council with respect to the award to any person of an Honorary Fellowship or Honorary Degree or title of Professor Emeritus”. Thus, in the context of the authority conferred by law and the University’s Statutes, the University plans to confer its first honorary doctoral degrees this coming November.
The article also makes spurious claims about the laboratories of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology. The public should note that this Faculty and the Faculty of Natural Sciences have been the beneficiaries of an infusion of funds within the last three years through a World Bank-funded project called The University of Guyana Science and Technology Support Project (UGSTSP).
The project had three enhancement components, namely; curriculum reform, rehabilitation of buildings and the acquisition of a significant amount of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment for the various departments. Additionally, substantial funds from the recently-implemented Learning Resource Facility Fees were used to purchase laboratory equipment. Works in this regard are ongoing.
Additionally, contrary to the misinformation in the Freddie Kissoon article, the University also offers a number of Master’s Degree programmes. At the 2017 Convocation, Masters Degrees were awarded in the following 10 disciplines: Education, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine, Internal/Infectious Disease, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Public Health, Forest Biology, Business Administration and Public Administration. Moreover, during the current academic year, one Master’s Degree will be offered in Orthopaedics and Traumatology and one in Petroleum Engineering, in collaboration with The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.
The public is invited to visit the university’s website (www.uog.edu.gy) or Facebook page to keep abreast with developments at the university.
for Public Relations Division
University of Guyana