UNIVERSITY of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) chairman Prof Ken Julien expressed confidence the UTT can survive its current economic difficulties, in his address to the UTT Graduation Ceremony at the O’Meara campus on Wednesday.
“The UTT serves a national purpose and its scope should be looked at within a national context,” he said.
“While financial constraints are affecting the country as a whole, rest assured that the Government is doing all in its power to ensure that access is granted to all nationals seeking to further their tertiary studies at UTT.
“I give you the assurance that every effort is being made to ensure that the national university successfully navigates this difficult period in a manner that will allow it to emerge stronger and better positioned to press ahead with a shared vision of quality tertiary education for the growth and development of TT’s human capital.”
Julien said the UTT, mindful of its long-term role, continues to plan, including the establishment of the signature campus at Tamana.
Saying the Government has invested heavily in tertiary education including in GATE, he said, “Even with the recent changes to the programme you are still the beneficiaries of a sizeable financial investment. “It is my hope that you are now in a unique position to contribute to national building and to make your own investment back into society.”
Saying English philosopher Herbert Spencer once said the great aim of education is not knowledge but action, he urged graduates to work towards changing this society for the better. “Your action can cause a ripple effect that may have positive, long-reaping rewards for TT.
“Our country is in the midst of very serious economic and social challenges and it is only with hard work, determination and a sense of community and national pride that we will be able to address these very serious issues.”
Julien opted not to meet reporters, on his meeting with Education Minister Anthony Garcia the day before.
Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis told reporters the UTT Board is doing an audit that is close to completion to decide its next move and will report to the ministry next week. “Then we decide what is the best way forward in terms of rationalising the university.” Asked about a purported memo sent by Julien to UTT staff indicating a 50 per cent cut in administrative staff and 25 percent cut in academic staff, Francis replied, “I’m not one for rumour on innuendo. I like to see hard facts in front of me. At this point they haven’t furnished us with anything yet. So they’re in the process of doing that. During our next meeting, we’ll have the numbers and then we’ll face the reality as it is.”
Pressed further about the memo, Francis replied, “He issued a memorandum to staff, which doesn’t resonate as government policy. As chairman he can talk to his staff, but in terms of how the Government treats with UTT, it’s not going to be based on any memorandum, but based on whatever data we have - financial, numerical and in terms of personnel - and then we decide.”
On the update, he said, “They were doing two studies, then we have another meeting and issue some kind of statement.” Francis confirmed that the UTT’s allocation has been reduced from $225 million last year to $200 million this year.
On whether the UTT can’t operate past January without making cuts, Francis said, “We had a discussion yesterday (Tuesday). Those ideas were bandied about, but without the hard numbers. You are not going to make decisions based just on money issues, it’s also human issues. So when they’ve finished their audit in terms of their staff, the cost per person and that sort of thing, we’ll be able to make a decision going forward.”