Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Trelawny: the future of UTech

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

President eyes parish as the future of the university

Tyrone Reid, Staff Reporter

Despite the Government's refusal to approve the University of Technology's (UTech) ambitious proposal to lease the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium and its facilities for use as its western campus, Professor Errol Morrison, the university's president, still sees the parish as the epicentre of the university's future activities.

Last year,
The Gleaner
reported that in its proposal to the Government, UTech pointed out that space restraints prohibited the university from accepting some 2,500 students who had met the matriculation requirements from the western parishes, including Hanover, Westmoreland, St James and, of course, Trelawny.

And, the university projected that within a few years the student population at its western campus would have blossomed to 5,000. The UTech, fondly labelled 'the people's university', planned to accomplish all of this without any additional funding from the Golding administration. Still, the government said no.

Meanwhile, the recent staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival at the Trelawny stadium, with talk of it being the annual event's new home, has some critics questioning the priorities of the Bruce Golding-led government: entertainment or education?

Nonetheless, the professor, who believes "UTech has largely been a great secret", remains undaunted.

"I will see it (government's refusal of its bid for the stadium) as a temporary setback, but our home is in Trelawny," said a confident Morrison.

"The future of our university is in the West. We are bursting at the seams," the professor said of the operations at the university's Papine campus.

Plans already afoot

He revealed that plans were already afoot to set up shop across the road from the Trelawny stadium at the 26,400-square foot Hague property which now houses an old factory. The aim is to start classes there in May. It is a strategic move, the professor says.

"If it doesn't happen in my time, it will happen, because we are surrounding it," the professor said with his characteristic chuckle. Though laughing, it was clear that Morrison meant business. It does not seem that he plans to take the State's no for an answer to the university's Trelawny stadium bid. "We are heading there (Hague) and we putting down stumps there," Morrison quipped about the proximity to the stadium that was built for the staging of Cricket World Cup.

The professor, who, in his youth had to be awake by 5 a.m., and studied two hours daily before going off to school, is determined to give his successor a platform out west to build on.

Larger institution

"And I can predict it will turn out to be, in a decade or so, a larger institution than what we have in Papine," said Morrison, who is in the third year of his five-year term.

Before retiring, at maybe 70 years old, if his contract is renewed in 2012, the professor also wants to be successful in his campaign for the government to give the university greater autonomy.

He explains that "UTech is an act of Parliament" and as such, is subject to the procurement rules governing the civil service; several of which the professor feels are strings around the university's feet.

The professor believes the university needs to be more nimble in order to earn its way, especially in the face of reduced financial support from the government.

He, however, is not asking for UTech to be a law unto itself.

The professor, a former pro vice-chancellor and dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies (UWI), says all he is asking for is greater autonomy, and that can be achieved if the State allows the university to operate within the same parameters as its neighbour at Mona - the UWI.

The way forward

Consolidate and continuously review and improve operations in newly expanded colleges, faculties and schools

Expand UTech's academy offerings and restructure operations to include continuing education and open distance learning and distance learning capacity

Increase the number of graduate programmes

Increase income from non-Government sources

Strengthen capacity to undertake research for national development

Pursue autonomy arrangements to achieve self-sustainable financing

Strengthen collaboration with community and teachers' colleges

Upgrade and expand sport facilities

Improve student friendliness and responsiveness and putting student well-being at the centre of all activities

Convert students' hopes to realisation of dreams