As the Guyana Government continues to inject billions into the University of Guyana, and with effort commencing to offer free education there, there is a need for the tertiary educational institution to enhance its degree programme.
This view was expressed by Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference on Thursday.
“[The University of Guyana] needs to have a good quality of degree [programmes], particularly first degrees. Around a core number of areas and quality is important…so a lot has to be reviewed there too; and the Government, now that it will be using taxpayers’ resources to fund the entire university, needs to ensure that we have solid leadership, and also that we have value for money, and the output – the quality of the degree [programme] – is of a standard that is recognised everywhere in the world.”
The Vice President was, at the time, asked about the need for fair and comparable salaries for UG lecturers, given that the local institution is offering the same services as the GOAL (Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) scholarship initiative.
Jagdeo argued that these are two different structures, and a “straight line comparison” is very difficult. He said there are a number of other issues that are affecting the quality of education being delivered at UG apart from the salary scale of the lecturers there.
Also questioned whether a higher salary is the only condition necessary for the delivery of a better quality of education at UG, Jagdeo said, “So, I believe that it’s a much more complex discussion when you look at quality…I think that we need to return to the focus on the quality of the degree [programmes] and the quality of the tuition, and if it necessitates higher remuneration to improve quality, then we’ll have to do it. But I don’t believe it’s the only condition necessary,” he posited.
In fact, the Vice President pointed to the fact that there have been complaints that, since coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students have been getting mainly online classes rather than on-campus teaching.
“I don’t know if it’s true, but [some students complained] they haven’t gone in once to the campus. It’s all online. But that’s not the experience we want with a campus, because we’re still sustaining this whole campus,” VP Jagdeo stated.
Free UG educationAs part of its 2020 Manifesto Promise, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had promised to deliver free education at the University of Guyana.
President Dr Irfaan Ali has already indicated this month that the Government’s plan to provide Guyanese with free UG education by 2025 would be rolled out in phases, starting with students who have pre-existing loans.
In fact, it was announced earlier this week that Government will commence the first phase of eliminating outstanding loans owed by UG graduates this year. This was revealed by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh when he explained in his presentation of the $1.146 trillion Budget 2024 that this write-off will, however, be on the condition that graduates can demonstrate proof of being employed for a minimum period to be specified.
On Thursday, Vice President Jagdeo noted that much consideration will have to be given on how to roll out this measure, especially since it would not benefit everyone.
For instance, he mentioned, those past students who have already paid off their UG loans would stand to gain nothing from this.
Responding to a question on whether Government would be engaging the commercial banks to also waive loans that students had taken to cover their UG fees and are still paying off, Jagdeo said, “When we give a waiver to the university, they don’t owe the university, but they owe the bank now. So that is the issue, the wavier there doesn’t help them, or if they got the money from their parents or they worked and paid it off… So, it’s a bit unfair to those people, so we have to get the numbers and see what we can do for them too… We still have to come up with a policy to try to help those people. We have not done so as yet.”