January 17, 2021

Statement from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles: Universities and Guyana Development

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Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, Monday, November 23, 2020. The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI and President of Universities Caribbean.

There is considerable interest in the regional and international university sector to assist with Caribbean regional economic and social development. One of the principal pillars on which the 4th industrial revolution and the knowledge economy rests is university teaching and research. Indeed, the subtitle of The University of the West Indies’ (The UWI’s) Strategic Plan is “Revitalising Caribbean Development”. It is also not surprising that the University of Guyana has rolled out its strategic vision for campus, country and community. Universities are not built and funded to serve themselves but the communities and cultures of which they are a core part.

To this end, regional university leaders got together to energize and revamp the Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes—now rebranded as Universities Caribbean in order to create a network of integrated universities for future development planning. Our membership now includes over 50 universities working together. I have the honour of being its president. We are currently planning joint inter-university degree programmes. It is an exciting time. One such project is a Master’s Degree in Caribbean Civilization to be delivered by six universities within the diverse language groups of the region. 

Many extra-regional universities have also rightly expressed strong interests in participating in the Caribbean Education sector. Indeed, the Caribbean is the most deeply penetrated part of the world in terms of services and products being delivered by ‘foreign’ universities. This is an age of globalization for the finest foreign universities. The UWI is not a foreign university in any CARICOM circumstance. In this context, the emerging relationship between The UWI and the Government of Guyana in the area of human resource development can only positively affect inter-university partnership and cooperation.

Against this background, The UWI is keen to participate in “rekindling Guyana’s economic and social development”. The UWI has long had an intimate academic relationship with the University of Guyana. It is our sister academy and we have many active partnerships with departments and faculties across our campus systems. We expressed keenness to deepen this bond when Professor E. Nigel Harris was appointed Chancellor and also with the appointment of Chancellor Professor Eddie Greene. We were active on this front with Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith and now we are further energized with the appointment of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin. 

Before COVID-19, Chancellor Greene and I spoke about building the “UWI-UG Bridge”. That conversation has been ongoing. We imagined the bridge as a mutual development strategy that will promote regional integration and expand teaching and research capacity. The “UWI-UG Bridge” proposal has tremendous potential benefits for Guyana. The excellent idea of Guyana as host to a “Higher Education Hub” is President Ali’s brainchild. The UWI wishes to partner in nurturing this infant. Guyana will be the development beneficiary.

For the weeks ahead, these are collaborative frameworks that can guide deeper institutional bonding. We are all aware that ‘development time’ is not on our side. Guyanese scholars, mostly products of UG, have made a superordinate contribution to the rise of The UWI—including Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, Pro Vice-Chancellors, distinguished research professors, and teachers possessed of brilliant oratory. It has been a remarkable injection of intellect which The UWI will celebrate shortly as it moves to mark its 75 years of service in 2023. 

It is in this spirit of collaboration that we are keen to assist in creating the ‘Guyana Higher Education Hub’. Together they will constitute a pathway to peace and prosperity through partnership.

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