FIX­ING UTECH Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy needs vi­sion

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­erjm.com

For­mer pres­i­dent laments state of af­fairs

The Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy’s ap­pear­ance be­fore the Public Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee re­vealed a num­ber of short­com­ings in its op­er­a­tions. To­day, we be­gin an ex­plo­ration of what is needed to ad­dress the con­cerns im­pact­ing the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion.

PRO­FES­SOR ER­ROL Mor­ri­son, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica (UTech), has in­di­cated that vi­sion­ary in­tro­spec­tion is needed to rem­edy the host of is­sues be­dev­illing the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion.

Mor­ri­son, who left UTech in 2014 af­ter a bit­ter in­ter­nal strug­gle with staff mem­bers, was re­spond­ing to a num­ber of con­cerns raised about the fi­nan­cial af­fairs of the univer­sity dur­ing its ap­pear­ance be­fore the Public Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee (PAAC) of Par­lia­ment.

“Un­til we agree that ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is more per­sonal than public good and, there­fore, must be seen and han­dled as a busi­ness, I don’t think we are go­ing to make the proper in­roads in the ter­tiary land­scape,” he told The Gleaner.

A re­port sub­mit­ted to the PAAC by UTech ad­min­is­tra­tors in­di­cated that ac­tual per­for­mance in the fi­nances of the univer­sity was pro­jected to be be­low bud­get for this fi­nan­cial year.

The re­port also noted that the in­come from stu­dent fees was be­low bud­get by 11 per cent and pointed to fur­ther re­duc­tions in government sub­ven­tion that ac­counts for 33 per cent of the univer­sity’s op­er­at­ing cost.

IN DES­PER­ATE NEED

UTech’s act­ing pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor Colin Gyles, in his pre­sen­ta­tion to the PAAC, re­vealed that the univer­sity was in des­per­ate need of an up­grade to its tech­ni­cal and tech­nol­o­gy­based fac­ul­ties, which rep­re­sent the core of its pro­gramme of­fer­ings.

He pointed to the fact that sus­tained year-on-year re­duc­tions in the univer­sity’s rev­enue have ham­pered its abil­ity to make the nec­es­sary in­vest­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Mor­ri­son, ad­min­is­tra­tors at UTech will have to be­come cre­ative in their ap­proach to se­cur­ing the crit­i­cal fund­ing needed to up­grade and ex­pand the univer­sity.

Point­ing to en­gage­ments with

MOR­RI­SON

China and other coun­tries while he held the reins of lead­er­ship, the renowned sci­en­tist said he had hoped those re­la­tion­ships would have been fos­tered and tapped as al­ter­na­tive sources of in­come for the in­sti­tu­tion.

“From those days we were court­ing the Chi­nese. Since the Bei­jing Olympics in 2008, we went to them and said, ‘Look, let us start with an MOU (mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing) which will al­low us to ex­change ex­per­tise in sports’, and we reached a point but I don’t know what hap­pened,” he said.

“We also made an outreach to South Korea be­cause, like the Chi­nese, they were heav­ily in­vested in Ja­maica, so we thought that was the way to go to get the in­vest­ment needed for the univer­sity, but now I don’t know where that has gone,” he said.

Mor­ri­son fur­ther ar­gued that UTech needs to be re­ori­ented to lever­age its key strengths in sports and the sciences.

“UTech needs to re­turn to a vi­sion guided by their re­view com­mit­tee and tar­get some proper fi­nan­cial in­put as to how best to get there. They need to relook at a lot of what they do, but at the same time UTech has a good track record for track and field ... . That is why there is a Fac­ulty of Sci­ence and Sports, yet that is be­ing starved of funds,” he added.

Com­ment­ing on the fact that the univer­sity is yet to ap­point a pres­i­dent al­most two years af­ter he left, Mor­ri­son said, “A vi­sion­ary needs to be iden­ti­fied to lead the in­sti­tu­tion, some­one who is pre­pared to put their neck on the block.”

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