Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Professor Edward Greene said the publicly funded institution would be focussing heavily on training of its academic staff while at the same time possibly get top-notch foreign professors.
Speaking with reporters after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the international oil field services company, Halliburton and UG, he said the staff training programme would be designed to boost the capacity of lecturers to bring the 56-year old tertiary institution up to an acceptable standard.
“We can’t have a university with only fifteen, twenty percent of the lecturers with PhD degrees. How are we going to do the Masters and the PhD programmes required to train people at the highest level if we can’t certify the staff?”, said Professor Greene, a former Caribbean Community Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development.
He cited the need to fast-track training of UG professors and attract “top level qualified people” who could deliver teaching and learning in a variety of academic disciplines aimed “at breaking down the silos of education” through an interdisciplinary curriculum rather than the current confinement to specific programmes of study.
Against the background of UG lecturers complaining about low salaries compared to their counterparts at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Greene acknowledged that poor salaries would be a major constraint to retaining highly qualified staff. “You can’t retain the staff with the level of salaries that they get. Most people would want to come to Guyana. This is a cusp of a development. It’s a time when we could attract people but we can’t attract people on the salaries that are currently being paid to the university,” he said.
One option, the UG Chancellor floated, was the placement of “trained, skilled top professors” from other universities with which Guyana has relationships so that they could come here to train a new generation of Guyanese professors and other teaching staff to improve the quality of primary and secondary education. Professor Greene said those foreign universities could fund their professors’ tenures in Guyana for two to three years. He said that could be done while UG gets “our salary rates and so on up so that we import by partnering with universities, getting them to give professors on loan and maybe, in some cases, they will stay.”
“We need that level of skill to be able to create the basis for the university to deliver the human capacity,” he added.
Chancellor Greene said he has a “vested interest” in seeing UG escalate its capacity to impact on Guyana and perform globally by mobilising resources to improve the teaching and learning environment to which foreign professors are accustomed.