The University of Guyana in time and place

21st November, 2017 0 comments

THE University of Guyana recently held its annual convocation at which over 2000 students graduated from the various departments at that institution. Not unexpectedly, it was a time for celebration as many of the graduates were first-generation achievers, blazing a trail for others to follow. Others were continuing in a family tradition set by earlier generations.

In the final analysis, higher education continues to be for many a stepping stone out of the doldrums of poverty and want for many of our young people—a form of social mobility.
But even as they celebrated, one could not miss the lament about the state of the university. Indeed, the presentation by the student-speaker, Elsie Harry-Ross, highlighted many of the woes of the institution. Ms. Harry’s critique should be a wake-up call to all those concerned about the future of the university. She drew attention to what she views as “indifference” and “malaise.”

Part of her presentation is worth repeating here: “I’ve wasted many days because too many people didn’t know where to find what and didn’t care enough to ask someone who did. This is the highest institution made for our country. If this is not the standard of excellence, then what is? New buildings will not transform the University of Guyana, a change in attitude will…UG, in my opinion, is a microcosm of Guyana.

Therefore, the same inefficiencies can be experienced in the country at large. My advice to everyone listening is simple: stop it, just stop. It has to end, and we must end it. These are the issues that hinder the renaissance of too many students of our university and too many citizens of our country.”

No doubt, we have heard similar testimonies before. In the past, many such critiques have been dismissed as the rumblings of the discontented or as partisan criticism. But, this time, it comes from a proud graduate, who hails the positives of her experience at the university. Some may admonish Ms. Harry for choosing the moment of accomplishment and celebration to make her remarks, but she would retort that it is at those very moments that one catches a captive audience.

The University of Guyana was one of our independence gifts to ourselves and has remained an enduring example of nationhood. It began as an initiative by the then PPP government and was completed by the succeeding PNC-UF coalition government, making it an example of bi-partisanship. It rose to become a respected institution of higher learning by attracting some of the most prominent scholars and intellectuals in Guyana and beyond.

In the process, many boasted about their UG degrees and some even returned there as lecturers and researchers. Above and beyond its academic worth, UG became one of the bulwarks of the crusade for social justice at a time when universities across the world expanded their mandate to include witnessing for the victims of oppression.

But even as the university played a positive role in decolonising the collective mind and preparing a new generation of nation-builders, it was becoming, like many of our public institutions, a tool of partisan contestation. It is this tendency that would ultimately erode the credibility of the institution as a national space that avoids the often poisonous partisan politics. This political entanglement would rob the university of talented faculty and the much-needed funds to push it into the rapidly changing future.

In the final analysis, the University of Guyana has become a shadow of its former self. The infrastructure fell apart, the intellectual environment suffered, workers wages and salaries stalled or declined, and students became apathetic. Leadership turn-over became more frequent than normal as the authorities looked for a new vision. Some left in frustration as the challenges became overwhelming.

The new vice-chancellor seems to have discovered that truth after less than two years on the job. An enthusiastic educator, who was recruited from the Guyanese diaspora, he appears to have a keen sense of the problems of the institution, but like others before him, he did not anticipate the difficulties of managing a university that has slid as far down as UG. Since his assumption of the leadership, he has sought to make the university much more visible in the larger community by emphasising community-based outreaches. The injection of the university into the broader socio-political discourses of the day is a breath of fresh air.

But this has not led to a vote of confidence among the university community as can be gleaned from Ms. Harry’s critique. The age-old struggle of the staff for better wages and working conditions is still very much alive. In this struggle, the vice-chancellor is seen as the villain, while the workers’ cause is elevated to the status of righteousness. This is the lot of the leader who must juggle scarce resources and who would inevitably make decisions consistent with his vision.

In the last analysis, the University of Guyana is too vital an institution to continue in its present state. As the only large-scale institution of higher learning in the country, the nation is poorer in the face of the malaise that exists there. We endorse Ms. Harry’s call to halt the slide. But such an endeavour requires the input of all the required stakeholders. And reform cannot be piecemeal—it must arise out of a comprehensive vision that takes into consideration Guyana’s reality and the global environment in which the country operates.

As a start, the basics must be attended to. Workers’ pay must be improved as a matter of priority. For example, UG would not attract or retain top-flight lecturers with the current salary scale. And no university worth its salt can survive without a cadre of seasoned and qualified faculty. But such improvement must be tied to efficiency and improved academic output. Nowhere in the world do students have to wait weeks and months to get their grades; it is a practice that must be banished as soon as the condition allows. Lecturers should be reminded that a university is an academic and intellectual space that must be constantly nourished with knowledge-production. There is no other way.

The vision of the university needs to be upgraded to become consistent with the national priorities. It is not simply about elevating business education above social sciences or natural sciences above humanities—it is about harmonising all strands of thought and knowledge to produce the rounded and grounded graduate who could be useful in the complex world in which we live. Or as Ms. Harry reminded, big shiny buildings are no substitute for academic and intellectual integrity and quality. Let the rebirth of UG begin in earnest.

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Become innovators - UG Berbice valedictorian urges

20th November, 2017 0 comments

SOME 220 were conferred with degrees, diplomas and certificates when the University of Guyana Berbice Campus (UGBC) held its 16th convocation ceremony on Saturday.

Berbice radio personality Treshan Budhram from the “Morning Spice Show” was adjudged this Year’s valedictorian.

Addressing the gathering on the university tarmac, he urged his fellow graduating class of 2017 to channel their achievementsw into becoming innovators.

“As graduates of the University of Guyana, we could know nothing or we could do anything. We say not finding the ideal job. Friends this is the reality. We may not find that job, that career, we hope for but that does not mean we should accept it – if we can’t find that job, create it, make it happen, use what we learn and do not allow external circumstances to define who we are. Let us use our degrees to become innovators – let us believe that we can achieve anything. We can enter this campus with different backgrounds and life experiences and we can now leave this campus as a collective unit ready to transform our communities into a nation we can be proud of.”

Budhram also encouraged the graduates to put Guyana first, since this is necessary to move the country forward.

“Our country needs our dedication, commitment and diligence and our county deserves our time, investment and creativity. Our communities require our expertise and wisdom. Let us own our mistakes and failures in the same way which we place our successes and achievements, because only then we can take up the rightful roles and allow Guyana to evolve. I urge you to believe in yourself, give yourself the opportunity to press against the shoulders of mediocrity – defeat it and press on to make this country great,” he said.

University of Guyana Chancellor Professor Nigel Harris during his short address, urged the graduating class to make good of the opportunities that will present itself with the discovery of oil here.

“This is not the end or is it the beginning of your educational journey, but in the words of a well-known statesmen, ‘this may be for you the end of the beginning.’ If you are to prevail in your life’s journey, you will have to expand in learning and knowledge many times over,you will likely need to reboot and remake yourselves many times to survive a rapidly changing world. You are at a cusp of the moment that might conceivably lead to considerable changes in Guyana.

With the discovery of oil and other minerals, there is a possibility of considerable increase in the financial resources coming to Guyana perhaps in an abundance never seen in our history. With imaginative, creative and daring leadership, all of our people can benefit. You can be the instruments of change. I hope you will summon your intellectual and creative skills to capitalise on the new opportunities that may come Guyana’s way,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith noted that of the 220 graduates, the largest batch came from the Faculty of Education and Humanities.

Kenisha Gopual, 20, who graduated with an Associate Degree in Biology, was the youngest graduating student while John Alexander, who graduated with a Diploma in Public Management, was the oldest.

A couple, Jon and Nicolita Collins, were also among the graduates.

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Over 2,000 graduate at UG convocation ceremonies; Sophia centre overcrowded

20th November, 2017 0 comments

The University of Guyana’s Turkeyen Campus yesterday sent its largest graduating class into the world.

The administration, led by Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith chose to host two convocation ceremonies—at 10 am at the National Cultural Centre and at 4.30 pm at the National Exhibition Centre at Sophia— to better accommodate the 2,165 graduates. The unprecedented move made the 2017 convocation ceremony memorable, as the memories of those who walked the stage in the evening and their families will include four hours of standing in a cramped humid space at the Sophia ceremony.

Some family members will remember unnerving encounters with university ushers who ran out of patience before the venue ran out of seats. Some may also recall how gratifying it was to watch their loved ones graduate while they peered through the security grill covering the windows.

One graduate took to Facebook to bemoan her choice to attend the ceremony at all. She noted that her grandparents, who travelled from Canada to see her collect her degree, had to leave when they ended up stuck outside the venue, unable to hear or see.

“What’s the point? You can’t hear, you can’t see. What are you celebrating?” she asked.

The ceremony was held at the auditorium of the Sophia Exhibition Centre after a week of inclement weather convinced the university administration that the Turkeyen Tarmac might not be best suited. Consequently, it was announced on Thursday that the 1,386 students graduating from the faculties of Education and Humanities, Health Sciences, and Social Sciences would be accommodated at Sophia.

The spaced, however, was as another student posted, “woefully inadequate.” As a consequence many left before the charge was delivered by Dr Mahendra Carpen.

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2000 to graduate from UG this November and new features planned for the ceremonies

31st October, 2017 0 comments

Several innovations are on the cards for the 2017 Convocation ceremonies of the University of Guyana, where some 2,000 students are expected to graduate.

The 51st Convocation at the Turkeyen Campus will be held on November 11. There the University will celebrate the accomplishments of about 1,800 students. For the first time in the history of the university, the certificates, diplomas and degrees will be awarded at two ceremonies. The one for the Faculties of Agriculture and Forestry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Technology, will be held at the National Cultural Center (NCC) at 10:00 h, while that for the Faculties of Education and Humanities, Health Sciences, and Social Sciences will be held on campus, beginning at 16:30 h.

In commenting on this significant change, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, who proposed the change said, “Our graduating classes have grown tremendously over the years, and having one ceremony has meant having extremely long ceremonies, with some graduates and guests leaving before the ceremonies conclude.” He added, “Creating two ceremonies allows us to maintain the tradition of having every graduand cross the stage and shake the hand of the Chancellor, and maintain the solemnity of the occasion, while reducing the length of the ceremony.”

Additionally, unlike previous years, all students graduating with diplomas will be invited to don academic robes, along with those graduating with Bachelors and Masters degrees. Another new feature at this year’s Convocations will be the use of ceremonial gonfalons, which are banners, often shield-shaped, that hang from crosspieces on top of poles. These banners are usually carried at the head of the Convocation procession and identify the different Faculties within the university from which students are graduating. According to Vice-Chancellor Professor Griffith, “adoption of this feature, which is found at mature universities across the world, will enhance the elegance and pomp of the ceremonies.” Moreover, beginning this year and as part of strengthening the University’s engagement with alumni and inspiring graduating and continuing students, the University will spotlight distinguished alumni at the various Convocations. Dr Dhanpaul Narine, Bachelor of Art in History, Class of 1975, will deliver the address at the first ceremony on November 11 at NCC. He is a distinguished educator and journalist based in New York, and is a former lecturer at City University of New York and the London School of Economics from which he secured his doctoral degree. Ambassador Rudolph Michael Ten-Pow, who studied Modern Languages, will give the keynote at the ceremony on the Turkeyen campus. He is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Guyana to the United Nations.

At the Berbice campus Convocation, where more than 200 students will graduate on November 18 on the University Square at Tain, the Convocation Address will be delivered by Ms Patricia Bacchus, Class of 2004, Bachelor of Laws. Ms Bacchus, who hails from the Ancient County, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Board of Caribbean Container Inc. (formerly SAPIL). She also serves as the Chairperson of the Board of GO- Invest.

Since 1968, when the University held its first graduation, it has become a leading provider of tertiary education in the country, graduating every year professionals with the knowledge and skills that are needed by the local, regional and global job markets. UG graduates can be found in senior positions in major public and private sector agencies both locally and around the world.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education, the extra-mural arm of the university, is scheduled to hold its graduation ceremonies for its four centers as follows: Georgetown Center on November 25; Linden Center on November 26; Anna Regina Center on December 2 and the New Amsterdam Center on December 9, 2017.



With a current enrollment of some 8,000 students, The University of Guyana (UG) has graduated more than 20,000 students who have gone on to successful careers locally, regionally and internationally. The University is also a major contributor to the national economy and to business and industry. Established in 1963 on a part-time basis with shared space at Queens College, UG moved to its own campus at Turkeyen in 1970 and expanded in 2000 with the addition of the Tain Campus. It now offers more than 60 Under-graduate and Post-graduate Programmes including Engineering, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Urban Planning and Management, Tourism Studies, Education, Creative Arts, Economics, Law, Medicine, Optometry and Nursing. Several online programmes are available and The UG also offers extra-mural classes at four locations through its Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE). The UG also offers the opportunity for student engagement in debating, sports, and cultural, religious and professional activities.

Public Relations Division
October 30, 2017 

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University of Guyana 2017 Convocation to be three-fold

30th October, 2017 0 comments

The University of Guyana’s 51st Convocation will see three different graduation ceremonies held in November.

According to the Registrar, Dr. Nigel Gravesande a two-part session is scheduled to be conducted on November 11th; and another at the Tain Campus in Berbice on November18th.

Dr. Gravesande noted that the first session will be held in the morning hours at the National Cultural Centre, whilst the second session will be held at the Turkeyen Campus in the afternoon. He also highlighted that this year’s convocation will be notable as compared to previous years, particularly since there will more students graduating.

The registrar explained the decision behind the two-part graduation, “The reason is that we have grown exponentially over the last couple of years, and it has been observed within the last two years there were some parking nightmares.”

He added, “Secondly, every year we have noticed that the graduation ceremonies become longer, and this year the academic board and the graduation committee thought ‘let us experiment and let us put in place a ceremony that would capture two events’.

The graduation ceremonies will also include three guest speakers, who are Alumni of the university. The decision to spotlight the alumni was towards an effort to apprise the current student population of the successes of ex-students and their vision for the institution.

Last year’s convocation at Turkeyen Campus, a total of 1,628 students graduated with Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates, while the Tain Campus, Berbice saw a total of 224 students graduating.

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UG Turkeyen Campus to have two convocations

16th September, 2017 0 comments

THE University of Guyana (UG)’s Turkeyen Campus will this year observe its annual convocation ceremony in two parts, Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ivelaw Griffith has said. The graduation exercise will be held on November 11, and will have two sessions. According to Dr Griffith, the move is an attempt to reduce the lengthy hours spent at the graduation ceremony. “One of the things we are doing differently is, we are going to have two graduation ceremonies rather than one. There are four to five hours, and by the time you get to technology, half the people gone,” the VC said on Tuesday.

“Why not create two shorter ceremonies and excite people who are graduates to come back,” he added. The two ceremonies will have two former graduates as guest speakers. The first session, which will be held early in the day, will hear from Guyana’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and former UG student, Mr Michael Tenpow. The name of the second speaker is yet to be announced, he said. The following week, on November 18, the Tain Campus will hold its graduation ceremony, and will have as its guest speaker Lawyer and graduate, Ms Patricia Bacchus. The vice-chancellor said he hopes to begin a culture of inviting graduates to speak at convocations going forward, “so that students can see what they can become in the future.”

Meanwhile, the university has announced that it has added some 16 new programmes/ courses to the 2017/2018 Academic year. These courses include eight from the newly established School of Education and Business Innovation (SEBI), and include the Bachelors of Science in Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Management, Marketing, Supply Chain Management, Tourism Management and Special Education Needs. The other programmes are an Associate of Science Degree in Mining Engineering; and a Bachelor of Science in either Environmental Science, Forestry, Industrial Engineering, Medicine or Surgery.

There are also the Master of Social Work, Master of Science in Agro-Technology and Business, and Master of Medicine in Diagnostic Radiology.

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