Fixing UTech | Institution’s standing as a university threatened
That fewer than 15 per cent of the academic staff at the University of Technology (UTech) have obtained advanced degrees continues to be a concern for former president, Professor Errol Morrison.
"There is a big difference in standards - that is, what you are teaching and how you teach it - and standing, which is how the university is viewed by its peers locally and internationally," Morrison told The Gleaner.
"I think the standards at UTech are there, but the standing is threatened because of the fallout that is happening, and there needs to be some quick buttressing," he continued in response to the fact that a large number of academic staff at UTech are still without a terminal degree.
USING SCARCE RESOURCES
A report on the university's financial affairs submitted to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament revealed that the university has been using scarce resources to upgrade the qualifications of its staff, but the cost has become prohibitive.
The report also pointed out that many staff members sent overseas to study do not return, while others serve out their bonds and resign immediately after.
Another issue affecting the low PhD count at UTech is an inability of the university to attract qualified academics because of low wages.
Morrison said while he led UTech, he sought to imple-ment a robust programme to upgrade the qualifications of the academic staff but was met with strong resistance from the staff union.
Pointing to UTech's transition to university status, the former president argued that the process has not gone well, because academic staff which were retained from the College of Arts, Science and Technology, have not taken up opportunities to advance their academic qualifications.
This, he said, is partly to blame for the low level of research output highlighted in the PAAC report.
"That is one of the failings in the transition process because, at the University of the West Indies, if you don't have a PhD, the most you can get is what they would call an assistant lecturer, which was only a one-year appointment, and I don't even think they offer that anymore. And, even if you have your PhD and you are not publishing, you will be called up, because in academia the creed is publish or perish," he said.