Category Archives: University of Guyana

UG symposium zeroes in on need for local law school

The common discussion thread was the establishment of a local law school when Moot Court Guyana convened a stirring symposium venued in the Education Lecture Theatre of the University of Guyana (UG) on Tuesday, which saw the attendance and input of a wide cross-section of local legal minds and even a few from the Caribbean, among others.
An abundance of recommendations and opinions were forthcoming, all of which are expected to help guide the way forward as it relates to the attaining of legal education in Guyana which has recently been gaining some controversial attention.
Moreover, the notion of establishing a local law school was supported by Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who at a previous forum had insisted that such an undertaking in Guyana would not be economically feasible. Nandlall, at the symposium on Tuesday, was reminded of his previous utterance in this regard by a young lawyer in training who demanded that the Attorney General outline the “true” position of Government.
According to Nandlall, Government is committed to supporting the establishment of a local law school, providing that it is done under the auspices of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) so that it will be a regional initiative ensuring that “Guyanese alone will not come here.”
“We cannot pursue an agenda that can be regarded or can be construed or in fact be insular. We will work with the process as far as possible (but) if we see that the process doesn’t serve our best interest well then we may be forced to take insular positions, and I am hoping we don’t have to resort to those mechanisms,” said Nandlall.
The CLE was created by an Agreement signed in 1971 by Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UG. It was established to provide training in the Region (rather than in Britain) for lawyers wishing to practise in the Region.
The Council currently operates three law schools: the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad – both established in 1973 – and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas which was established in 1998.
However, regardless of the direction embraced by Guyana, Nandlall emphasised that it must be one that is in the best interest of the students and by extension the country. As such, he noted that focus must be on guaranteeing a quality of legal education that is relevant, affordable and accessible.  And quality legal education, Nandlall noted, must be one that “will make our students understand their roles and functions in society, the social institutional role of the law; the social institutional role of the lawyer to society, to democracy, (and) to the rule of law; the importance of the interconnectivity of all these concepts to the economic and social advancement of our people and our country….The solution that we will pursue here in Guyana must be one that will capture all of those.”
Moreover, he amplified that, like the UG law programme which is recognised across the world, the Legal Education Programme which emanates from the CLE is recognised by the best universities in the world, by every bar in the United States and elsewhere. As such he stressed the need for quality control, pointing out that “education without integrity or a certificate without integrity is not worth the paper it is written on.”
According to the Attorney General, who attended the forum in the capacity of a panellist, “a legal education in my opinion is valuable as a stepping stone to so many other disciplines that one may wish to pursue.”
Review of legal education

A section of the gathering at the forum on Tuesday.

And in order to examine the future of legal education in these parts, Nandlall disclosed that a study to review legal education is underway, an undertaking that is expected to be funded by an organisation out of Barbados which is financed through a grant from the Canadian Government. “Funding is always lacking and once you already have a source of funding it will augur well for expediency of the exercise being undertaken,” the Attorney General added.
The review, according to him, is expected to follow on the heels of the Caricom Heads of Government meeting set to commence on July 1 in Antigua, a forum which will address the concerns relating to legal education in the Caribbean.
Understandably, the review will also address this issue even taking into consideration the short and long term future of the graduates of the UG law programme.
Although based on an agreement between UG, UWI and the CLE the top 25 graduates of the local law programme are automatically granted placement at the Hugh Wooding Law School, the placements of the 2013 graduates were however under threat and therefore required intervention from Government. The matter was therefore discussed at a previously convened Caricom Heads of Government meeting after which it was taken up with the CLE.  An eventual resolution was derived whereby the stipulated 25 local students of the 2013 programme were granted placements for the upcoming academic year and an additional 10 international students will also be granted placement at law schools within their respective zones.
But according to Nandlall, “I am hoping that while the review is being undertaken we will have a short term solution, I am also expecting at the same time that the review will provide Guyana with a comprehensive solution to its problem.”
He however noted that Guyana is not in the existing dilemma in isolation even as he pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago, which is much more endowed in terms of resources, is faced with a similar challenge in spite of the fact that the Hugh Wooding Law School is located there. “In fact their (Trinidad and Tobago) Government is now completing a building that is earmarked to house a law school either under the aegis of the Council of Legal Education or not, because they have already begun discussions with organisations who administer the legal education certificate in the United Kingdom and to have some arrangement arrived at that would accredit their institution.”
But it was Justice Duke Pollard of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) who queried the possible outcome of the comprehensive review touted by the Attorney General. He, in his contribution to the forum argued, “The CLE itself is the culmination of a comprehensive review of legal education. Where is the CLE now? In total disarray!”
Justice Pollard recalled too that it was a comprehensive review in 1989 that the ‘Sonny’ Ramphal Commission was birthed which, according to him, made a lot of concrete recommendations for a Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), a Caricom Competitive Commission and the CCJ. “Where are these institutions today? How successful are they? What confidence has the Region shown in having these institutions? What is the commitment and the loyalty of the state of Caricom to the CCJ and the CSME and to the Caricom Commission?” questioned Justice Pollard as he theorised that they have all had similar outcomes. And given the track record of the aforementioned institutions, he hinted to the possibility that a comprehensive review may not be the ideal way forward to address the future of legal education in Guyana.
Government’s obligation
And while Attorney-at-Law Teni Housty vocalised his conviction that local law students must be able to take responsibility for themselves first before they source relevant support systems to aid them along, yet another Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams, insisted that care must be taken to ensure that law does not become an ‘elitist’ profession. He pointed to the need to urgently address “whether we should have a local law school, or should our students be visited every year with this uncertainty; the stress, the anxiety of not knowing whether they are on or not…What will happen is that the law programme will become ‘elitist ’ and I believe the Government, this Government of the day owes its people an obligation to ensure that this doesn’t occur,” warned a very vocal Williams. Among the panellists at Tuesday’s symposium was Senior Lecturer of UG’s Law Programme, Christopher Ram, who recommended to the organisers that the outcome be used to formulate a policy with which students can approach the administration and the Faculty of Law Department.
Also gracing the panellist table was President of the Bar Association, Ronald Burch-Smith, who in his remarks sought to inform the law students in attendance, “You are responsible for your own future not just in terms of what you do in the class room but how you organise yourselves…”
Noticeably absent from the planned panellist contingent were CLE Chairperson, Ms. Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Chief Justice (Ag), Carl Singh.
The symposium was held in collaboration with the University of Guyana Law Society and the University of Guyana Student Society with support from UG’s Department of Law. The forum was moderated by lecturer within the Faculty of Law, Ms. Christine McGowan.

Vice Chancellor stresses need for independence at UG

- as consultations to discuss tuition fee hike commences

Transforming the University of Guyana (UG) into an institution that matches international excellence is an undertaking

UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi, during yesterday’s press conference.

that requires resources. This conviction was vocalised yesterday by Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Professor Jacob Opadeyi, as he addressed a media conference in the Education Lecture Theatre (ELT) at the University’s Turkeyen campus.
“Without resources we can’t do anything,” said the Vice Chancellor as he pointed to the fact that the tuition fee at UG was last set some 20 years ago.
In 1994 moves were made to have the tuition fee pegged at US$1,000 which, at the time, was equivalent to G$127,000 per year. This move was implemented after a review by Government to ascertain the University’s financial position, an undertaking that concluded that the tertiary institution should be self-financing.
Noticeable changes in the currency exchange rate over the years were taken into consideration by the University’s Council in 2012, which saw a call being made for an adjustment to the tuition fee that matched the existing exchange rate. The recommended modification was however, not adopted and only became a public ‘bone of contention’ when Professor Opadeyi assumed the position of Vice Chancellor last year.
“I want you to tell me if there is anything in Guyana that the price has not changed for (over) the last 20 years; not even bus fare,” said Professor Opadeyi as he announced plans to host consultations with stakeholders over the next few days to discuss a hike in the tuition fee.
“Nobody will enjoy an increase in tuition, nobody; likewise nobody will like an institution that is not improving in its quality, content (and) environment,” said the Vice Chancellor as he went on to note, “either we want to keep the University where it has been for the past 10, 15 years, or we are really serious about making it an international excellent University.”
Moreover, he informed that talks about an increase to the existing tuition fee is something that is not only long overdue but critical to the survival of the University.  He explained that “the increase in the tuition (fee) is not just because we want more money but because we want to raise the bar.”
According to the Vice Chancellor too, “if the University is really to be an independent University, we must have resources to start our own goals, decide on our priorities rather than our involvement being tied to subvention, tuition fee increase (and) parliamentary approvals….once you are tied to that then you are asking for political intervention.”
And in order for UG to be free of such interventions, Professor Opadeyi spoke of the need for the University to be able to manage its own resources. He also alluded to the fact that “we have been guilty of, at this University, expanding our options, expanding our programmes just because this University loves the country so much, (but) I say that is the end of that love.”
The Vice Chancellor in his deliberation yesterday said that any new programme at the University must in fact come with money to enable its expansion. As such, he insisted that “we need to be demand driven, not service driven. What we have been doing over the years is service, service, service…”
“We are the only University in the country; everybody depends on us for their tertiary education but when it comes to the money required to develop those programmes, we are very short on that funding,” said Professor Opadeyi.
However, he assured that the University will not only be focused on business as according to him, “We are going to have some human faces to those among us who cannot afford the cost of going to University and we are saying that we are going to sit down with those persons and look for other ways to make their education more affordable.”
Students were put on notice last week of a looming increase to the tuition fee with an electronic notice issued by the Deputy Registrar on June 13 last. The notice in part stated, “Please be advised that registration for the 2014-2015 academic year will most likely commence in July 2014. This is because of the impending increase to the tuition fee, which has to be finalised before your registration commences. Any inconvenience caused is regretted.”
At least five consultation fora have been scheduled to discuss the way forward in terms of implementing a hike in the tuition fee.  Two sessions are set for today in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre (GWLT), with the initial attracting input from staff and another intended to target students.
But in an interesting twist yesterday Professor Opadeyi appealed to the media corps to cover the consultations in a manner so as to ensure that “it brings national unity; so that it brings positive change to this University…We do not want the coverage to retort to any form of analysis (or) any lack of insightful research. We do not want it to be something that will further bring down what we are trying to build.”
“The essence is to ask the media not to take one isolated story and turn it into headlines…in other words don’t give us any negative press without any analysis; if there is analysis to support the negative press please go ahead but we want this to be a national decision embraced by all and that is why we are having the consultations,” said the Vice Chancellor.
Aside from the two consultations today (10:00 hours – 12:00 hours (for staff) and 14:30 hours to 16:30 hours (for students) both in GWLT); another is scheduled for tomorrow (June 25) at 14:30 – 18:30 (in ELT) for the public sector and political directorate; on Thursday (June 26) members of the private sector and Non-Governmental Organisations will be the primary targets (in ELT), while on Friday (June 27) yet another forum will solicit participation from staff, students, the Advisory Board and the general public at the Berbice campus.

Despite poor repayment rate… : UG student loans funding to be addressed : – Minister assures

THE $450M cut from the 2014 National Budget, which was earmarked for loans to the University of Guyana (UG) students loans and the urgency to have the monies restored will be given attention.
Given that the new academic year is scheduled to commence in August underscored another problem, the dismal repayment rates, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh pointed out on Thursday.He acknowledging that the facility was intended to be a revolving one supported by Government and bolstered by repayments to ensure the availability of financing support for UG students in need.
“The level of repayment of student loans is not where we want it to be…it is not where it should be,” Dr. Singh lamented during a news conference at the National Communications Networks (NCN) Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown studio.
He stated that alternative courses of action to encourage greater levels of repayment will be taken in the coming months.
“This is something that we recognise in Government and I believe that corrective action has to be taken to achieve higher level of compliance and a higher level of repayment,” the Finance Minister stated.
According to him, the repayment of the loans, which attract a “very low” interest rate, is very poor, with millions owed to the University.
In the meantime, he said he could not commit to a time when the current Administration would address the restoration of the $450M for the student loans but assured that the Government is cognisant of the urgency of the matter.
“We are fully mindful of the circumstances in relation to this item and we are attentive to its implications. The people of Guyana can be assured that the Government is mindful of the urgency of these matters and appropriate action will be taken,” Dr. Singh assured.
Additionally, the UG Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi, at a previous press conference, warned of possible reduction of programmes offered by the institution, which are not substantially subscribed to by student.
The implications of this action extends to the fate of lectures and have caused major uproar at the University.
President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr. Patsy Francis has since demanded that the Administration must devise a plan that will see the $450M student loan subvention restored, thus offsetting the looming call for the increase in tuition.
The total allocation of $450M was chopped from the National Budget by the combined Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) in a parliamentary vote.
The parties have since maintained the defence that the allocation for UG was linked to other provisions for which they were opposed and, given the ruling by Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang that individual line items could not be cut from the Budget, the entire sum, that included the student loan monies was removed.
The Government, in turn, has underscored the fact that the National Budget is presented in the same format it has been for several years now and no allocations are linked, as is being claimed by the Opposition, but listed under the relevant section in the estimates as per normal.
The student loan allocation was listed under the Ministry of Finance’s Policy and Administration capital budget. Over the years, a vast majority of the student population at the country’s premier tertiary institution has benefited from such loans and a large percentage of prospective and current undergraduates depend on them. (Vanessa Narine)

*** PULL QUOTES:
“This is something that we recognise in Government and I believe that corrective action has to be taken to achieve higher level of compliance and a higher level of repayment” — Dr. Ashni Singh

IDCE being forced to close operations -Deputy Director

-    Department against move to rob population of  options to improve themselves
-    Says unit is not about profit making  

By Rabindra Rooplall
After serving and providing both academic and professional training for a significant percentage of the Guyanese adult community, plans are afoot to close the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE). This was confirmed by IDCE Deputy Director (Ag), Francis Glasgow, who noted that the agency is fighting against any closure which is being pushed by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Professor Jacob Opadeyi.
The Vice Chancellor plans to close the IDCE Department because it does not make a profit, then introduce an online degree programme which will be controlled from within his office.
However, when IDCE was established in January 1976, the aim was to provide both academic and professional training for a significant percentage of the Guyanese adult community.
Formerly, it was the Department of Extramural Studies, a unit of the then Faculty of Education. In December 1983, the Academic Board approved the upgrading and expansion of the Department into the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (IACE), University of Guyana.
Glasgow explained that in taking the University to the broad mass of people, IDCE was focused not on profit making, but to organize educational service for adults and out of school youths not engaged in University courses so as to equip and assist them to make a continuing and increasing contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of Guyanese society.
According to the Deputy Director, the guiding philosophy of the department was “people improving themselves through their own resources”.
As such, he explained that IDCE’s purpose is to increase the awareness of the interaction between formal and non-formal education, and to provide facilities for the continuum of educational integration and interaction.
This, he said, is done through a convenient delivery mode which includes printed materials supplemented by audio materials and some face-to-face tutorials.
However, Glasgow noted that years ago the department lost its online programmes. “We offered about four programmes. Two batches completed it, but then there were difficulties with the platform and hosting, which include bandwidth which the technical people would note is very expensive. This was done under former Director, Dr. Ramesh Sharma during 2009-2011. He also belonged to an international agency of which platform we used to run some of our online courses.”
Glasgow continued: “This present Vice Chancellor, since he came from the very inception, planned to shut down IDCE. From the inception he was saying that IDCE does not make a profit and not taking care of all its expenses. We reminded him verbally and showed documents which firmly stated that IDCE is not about profit making, that Government through its subventions would take care of IDCE expenses of the permanent staff and buildings, but the actual programmes and courses we offer should pay for themselves. So this agency is not about profit.”
Emphasizing that before the present Vice Chancellor took office, President Donald Ramotar had injected $50M into the agency, Glasgow said this was taken and controlled by Professor Jacob Opadeyi to set up a unit called Open and Distant Learning, which is operating out of his office. This would be responsible for Degree programmes.
It was further explained that Professor Opadeyi advertised a vacancy for a director of the online agency. Professor Jacob Opadeyi is not interested in pre university programs.
“The statutes of the university give a lot of power to the academic board which comprises of Deans, Heads of Departments, and other academic staff members. Any operations at the University must come through the academic board, but Professor Opadeyi has no care or concern for the academic board. That proposal for the online programme should have passed through the board and been debated but that was not done,” Glasgow explained.
“The Council of the University, which is made up of government officials, has only been listening to Professor Opadeyi and only acts on what he presents. There are many more indiscretions.”
As the extra mural arm of UG, IDCE was envisioned as an avenue through which equal access to education would provide citizens with opportunities for personal and professional growth and development consistent with national development trajectory. It must be noted that IDCE serves a vital role in the delivery of education to a diverse population and, consequently, UG should ensure that the Institute grows and develops into an organization of high academic and professional standards.

 

UGSSA addresses Opposition cuts to UG loan subvention, increase in tuition

Vice-President of the UGSSA, Dr. Melissa Ifill

PRESIDENT of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr. Patsy Francis asserted that the administration of the university must devise a plan which will see the restoration of the $450M student loan subvention thus offsetting the looming call for the increase in tuition.

A disgruntled Francis, on Friday, was addressing cuts made to the loan subvention for University of Guyana students during the 2014 Budgetary Debates of the National Assembly by the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/ Alliance for Change (AFC) combined opposition.

President of the UGSSA, Dr. Patsy Francis

The UGSSA President also responded to remarks from the Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Jacob Opadeyi, who alluded to severe crisis being ensued at the tertiary institution if the decision taken by the Parliamentary Opposition to is not reversed.
According to her, the Union is not in agreement with increasing the student fees without “concomitant increases in quality”, she further urged the relevant stakeholders to address the “increase” in tuition and not be railroaded by the “semantics” of “adjustments”, which were brought on by said disapproval in the National Assembly.
Additionally, the UGSSA President was adamant that real consultation with students had not yet commenced, since such consultations cannot be conducted with a few select persons representing the interests of the students that will simply agree whilst not taking the interest of the students into consideration.
Francis ardently maintained that mechanism must be put in place through scholarships, bursaries and soft loans provided by commercial banks and the Private Sector who would be willing to invest in the development of the countrhby, she further added that all young people should be able to attend the University regardless of their economic status.
She further urged that the administration as well as the council of the University, to which the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi is an integral member ought to lobby the relevant Politicians to have provisions made for the University in the requisite supplementary funding to the Ministry of Finance’s Loan Agency to curtail the impasse that is looming, further calling for reasonable policies with a sense of “social conscience” to be put in place.
Francis keenly noted the proposals made by the Unions on the increase in tuition fees and has urged that mechanisms must be put in place to facilitate students who cannot afford the proposed tuition fees.
Vice-President of the UGSSA, Dr. Melissa Ifill recalled that the union underscored two years ago that G$127,000 cannot produce a quality education for any one student at the campus. She said that the union recognises that there is a realistic cost for tertiary education, however, systems such as those of the University of the West Indies are ample where the State and the student share in the payment of tuition rates.
Also, she said that there must similarly be mechanisms in place for those students who cannot afford to foot their end of the bill, further urging that the students, who remain the majority stakeholders, should articulate for the advancement of their interests.
The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/Alliance for Change (AFC) combined parliamentary Opposition, in the Committee of Supply of the National Assembly during the 2014 budget debates, voted against funding for several Ministry of Finance programmes, including the $450M allocated to the University for student loans.
From the time of his inaugural address to the post of Vice-Chancellor of the premier tertiary institution, Opadeyi had noted that, in order to ensure the improvement in the quality of service provided by the institution, tuition increases are imminent.
Former UG PRO-Chancellor, Dr. Prem Misir maintained, however, that while an increase in tuition will expectedly channel more revenue to the coffers of the university, at the same time such an undertaking could result in the denial of access to some students and that would not be the most desirable since students “should have equal right to admission at the University.”
Over the years, a vast majority of the student population at the country’s premier tertiary institution has benefited from student loans and a large percentage of prospective and current undergraduates depend on said loan in order to assist in furthering themselves to make substantial contributions which are integral to the country’s development.

(By Derwayne Wills)

Guyana’s Confucius Institute hailed as a further symbol of strong partnership between Guyana and China

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Limin, Director, Professor Al Creighton, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, President Donald Ramotar and UG’s Vice Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi

PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar, in congratulating the University of Guyana (UG) on what he described as an important milestone in its history stated that the formal opening of the faculty’s Confucius Institute was another example of the close and valued relationship, between Guyana and China.

He said this is a relationship which has seen productive partnerships in politics, engineering, economics and culture.
Explaining that the new facility will serve to inform Guyanese, the president said that the theme of enlightenment holds special significance for Guyana, as it did in the time of the renowned philosopher and teacher whom it is named after. “The historians tell us that Confucius lived in a society characterised by warfare and politics of fierce rivalry, sounds familiar? But on many occasions, his wisdom, diplomacy and moral influence managed to prevail in conflicts and disputes”.

UG’s Vice Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Limin, President Donald Ramotar and Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute Professor Jun Yuhua unveiling the plaque to mark the opening of the Confucius Institute at the University of Guyana

The teaching of Confucius can educate the world about relations between nations and can counsel in human and international relations, President Ramotar added.
He recalled that from the first arrival of Chinese indentured labourers in 1853, when they were recognised as hardworking, adaptable people and civilised, it was the beginning of a rich contribution to Guyanese nationhood. He added that Guyana has had a long history of distinguished Guyanese of Chinese lineage such as its first President Arthur Chung and Parliamentarian and Educator, Rudy Luck.
Contributions to the business sector were noted by the president as was the fact that they provided UG’s first two scholarships for students.
With regards to politics, he noted that the PPP has always had a close relationship with the country’s Communist Party.
In brief remarks, the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Limin said that the institute will serve to inform and promote his country’s culture, and thanked all of those who made it a reality. The ambassador also handed over a quantity of books to the institute.
Brief remarks were also given by Chinese Director Professor Jan Yuhua, UG’s Vice Chancellor Professor Jacob Opadeyi, along with cultural performances and a Taichi display by students, Crystal Crawford, Subraj Singh, Keiona Callaik, Nadine Jalill and Mariah Perry.
The programme offered through a new faculty of the university contains four courses, comprising a three-year programme, according to Director, Professor Al Creighton, and takes students from Beginners to Intermediate levels.
The programme is fully accredited and is available as part of the degree programme, he added. There are currently 272 students enrolled and this number exceeded what was initially expected due to the trend of less persons electing to study foreign languages. This has put great pressure on available classroom space and the lecturers. These include Chinese Director Ma Toa, Tie Zhiya and Peng Zhe, who conduct classes in languages and the Taichi Martial Art. In addition to attracting immigration officers and members of the Public Service, Chinese nationals who speak other dialects and wish to learn standard Mandarin are taking up studies.
The Confucius Institute is a joint venture with UG, Dalian University of Foreign Languages and Hanban. The latter, Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education and serves as the Confucius Institute Headquarters. It sponsors Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms around the world.
It also provides resources to Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in support of teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture. It is the official Chinese language teaching and cultural centre, as well as Chinese related information center in Guyana.
By January of 2012, there were 322 Confucius Institutes and 500 Confucius Classrooms in 105 countries/regions.

(GINA)