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The University of Guyana was established in April 1963 and began its operations in October of the same year with a batch of 164 students in temporary premises loaned from Queen's College in Georgetown.
Programmes were at first confined to the Arts, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. However, in 1967, a Faculty of Education was established and this was followed by the establishment of the Faculties of Technology in 1969, Agriculture in 1977, and in 1981, the Faculty of Health Sciences, prior to the establishment of which programmes in Health Sciences were offered within the Faculty of Natural Sciences. A Forestry Unit was established in 1987. In 2002, the Faculty of Agriculture was renamed the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry. In 2003, the Faculties of Arts and Education merged to become the School of Education and Humanities.
At its inception, only general degree programmes were offered by the University, but from 1966, Certificate and Diploma level programmes were introduced. The first graduate programme - A Master's Degree in Guyanese and West Indian History was started in 1973. This was followed by Master's programmes in Biology and Education in 1976, Chemistry and Economics in 1977, Political Science in 1978, and Geography in 1984. A Graduate Diploma in Development Studies was also introduced in 1984. From 1975, the University began accrediting programmes run by sister institutions in the Commonwealth Caribbean. A Training Programme for Medical Practitioners was launched in October 1985.
The University occupied its present site at Turkeyen in October 1969. The tuition fee of $100 per annum was abolished in 1974. However, in the 1994-95 academic year the University introduced a Cost Recovery Programme. Students are currently required to pay G$127,000 per annum. This does not apply to Communication Studies, Law, Medical, and Tourism Students who pay $200,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $154,000 respectively.
In 1975, participation in National Service was made a requirement for persons wishing to pursue programmes at the University; however, in 1994 approval was given by the Cabinet for the abolition of mandatory National Service for students at tertiary level education institutions.
In the 1993-94 academic year the Semester System was introduced in the Faculties of Education and Social Sciences. This system was introduced to the remaining Faculties in 1994/95.
Within the past five years five years a number of new programme have been introduced, including Masters Degrees in Administration, Bachelor degrees in Pharmacy, Optometry and Dentistry. The University also certifies affiliated programmes. The Health Sector is the main beneficiary of this facility.
In 2005 the meritorious position of Distinguished Professor was instituted. Professor Clive Thomas is the sole holder of this distinction.
In 2009 the first Emeritus Professors were installed.
The current enrolment at the Turkeyen Campus is in excess of 5000 students pursuing more than 60 under-graduate and post-graduate programmes. To date, more than 15,000 students have graduated and gone on to sucessful careers both locally and internationally