Last Updated on Saturday, 18 June 2016, 18:26 by Denis Chabrol
The cash-strapped University of Guyana (UG) is set to increase existing fees and possibly introduce new charges and ask government to amend tax laws to allow for individuals to make donations, according to the institution’s newly-appointed Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith.
“We will have to have a conversation about how much but we will have to have a graduation fee,” he said, explaining that such a charge is routine and necessary at universities to finance the graduation exercise.
Griffith also signaled that foreign students studying at UG will have to pay increased fees. “We will have to look at the opportunity beyond the university to see in the region and in the rest of the world are there fees that we can have that don’t affect Guyanese students but may be important contributions by foreign students,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor also hopes to spearhead the mobilization of grant funding to help boost the coffers of the publicly-funded institution that has been hamstrung for decades now in paying higher salaries comparable to universities elsewhere in the Caribbean. “I’ll be looking for revenue not only from the government, not only from the alumni, not only from fees but from places where the money is available. We just have to have the institutional connection to be able to make the flow happen,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor’s talk about finding new cash streams comes at a time when the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) are continuing already protracted negotiations for increased salaries.
Professor Griffith acknowledges the need and importance of paying academic and non-academic staff higher salaries. “Not only is it necessary for us to pay staff better, academic and non-academic staff. We have to be able to give those staff members the tools to do their job professionally. We have not, as a university, been doing that,” he told a news conference at the weekend.
He prefers to keep the pay-talks away from the glare of the media while at the same time hold monthly consultations and hammer out an agreement behind closed doors as part of efforts to boost confidence among financiers and donors in UG. “The union and the administration not need to be in a confrontational mode. That does not serve the best interest of the students, the best interest of the staff, it does not enable people who are willing to give to us feel confident that they are giving to a calm, methodical, thoughtful environment,” he said.
Talks will soon be held, he says, with the Ministers of Finance and Public Health and the Attorney General to revise the governance structure of the university and the tax law to allow individuals to get tax rebates if they donate money to UG. “Some of what we need to ask the government to do is not only to give us money but is to change the rules and regulations,” he said.
Declaring that the “legal and regulatory mechanisms are outdated, the Vice Chancellor was hopeful that UG would receive help from an international organisation to help fund those changes. “We have got to bring this university into the age of modernity.”
Funding, academic initiatives and boosting the credibility and respectability of the more than 50-year old tertiary institution will be the subject of UG’s first “Educational Resource Ambassadors” conference scheduled for June 23, 2016, at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown. A broad cross-section of overseas and local experts are expected to participate in the event after a tour of the Tain and Turkeyen campuses.
UG has already decided to have undergraduates participate in in-depth and sustained research, with the hope of tapping into the premier Council on Undergraduate Research whose conference will be held later this year.
Plans are already in train to establish a Business School and holding three lectures on economics, history and the environment by Distinguished Economics Professor, Clive Thomas; Sister Noel Menezes and Professor Ulric Neville Trotz Lecture as well as have the first permanent holder of the Walter Rodney Chair in honour of that world-renowned historian. “Irrespective of what your political inclinations are this university needs to celebrate whoever is politically inclined one way or the other if those persons are intellectual giants,” he said.