University of Guyana plagued by outdated governance structure and low salaries
Written by Denis Scott Chabrol
Friday, 27 January 2012 18:17
Outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Professor Lawrence Carrington on Friday identified an archaic governance structure and woefully insufficient cash, including low salaries, as major stumbling blocks to improving the nation’s premier tertiary institution.
Addressing a well-attended staff meeting in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, he said the major problem confronting conditions of service and staffing policy is how to attract more qualified staff and pay them competitive emoluments.
“If all we can offer a professor at the top of our scales is the equivalent of US$1,725, we will not be able to compete with a Caribbean competitor offering the equivalent if US$8,429 ay a comparable level. So our planning has to shift the matter of emoluments to the top of the agenda,” he said.
The Trinidad and Tobago-born Vice Chancellor feared that “We will not be able to justify the label of university if all we can show in a teaching and research staff” of 359 academics are nine professors and 17 senior lecturers. Only two departments are headed by two temporary professors and only four by senior lecturers, one of whom is temporary.
He said he did not care about fees but instead he cared about the resources available to work with.
Related issues, he identified are the terms and conditions of service, confidence in the system of appraisal, systems of incentives, rewards and recognition.
Noting that there are “more proposals than concrete achievements,” he said an initial one has seen the knocking out the bottom tier of salary scales and adding another at the top, resulting in an upward shift of everyone. However, he said, that proposal would only yield fatter pay packets if more money is provided. “It has been stalled though in the face of severe budgetary handicaps but it can be revived as part of a more widely conceived review of the salary scales,” he said.
Data from University of the West Indies (UWI) campuses, Professor Carrington said, are available to be considered for crafting new salary proposals.
He urged staff members to take advantage of UG-managed credit line to purchase computers at significantly lower prices. And he announced that duty-free concessions for vehicles would soon become available to the wider university community.
Professor Carrington announced that a “substantial” grant has been approved by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to hire a consulting firm to review UG’s regulatory framework to improve its operations.
“The governance structure of the university is archaic…Our statutes, rules, regulations, procedures and policies belong to an era long past and cannot be left to clutter the 21st century,” he added. Negotiations are expected to begin shortly with the successful bidder.
The review, the Vice Chancellor assured, would address grouses, shortcomings, structural inadequacies, financial regulations if staff members play an active part. “It will happen only if you all make concerted effort, not merely to collaborate with the investigative processes but even more importantly to press our higher committees to make changes that come from the recommendations of the review,” he said.’
Professor Carrington reasoned that UG’s governance structure- with a number of back-linkages to centralized authority- was instituted during a different era and it is no longer relevant.
Though he did not address the termination of Political Science lecturer, Freddie Kissoon’s contract by UG’s Council, he noted that the Appointments Committee at UWI did not include politicians. That, he said, could inhibit efficiency and decision-making based on the best interest of the institution.
“What that does is that it allows you to focus on the academic issues related to the appointment rather than have intrusion of political issues,” he said to loud applause.
Pointing to Guyana’s political history, he noted that the country operates a very centralized governmental structure with a strong top-down component that is unmatched in the rest of the Caribbean
“It does involve a number of serious challenges to an institution that is purportedly autonomous because it is created by an Act of Parliament,” he said.
“I don’t think that one should attribute personal ill-will to the people who are exercising authority,” he added.
He noted that his own appointment was never properly advertised and so had always insisted that all official correspondence referred to him as ad interim (a.i.)