University Fi Stone Dog in the UK?

Believe it or not, influential academics are insisting that there are far too many universities in the UK. Of course, they’re not using our colourful language – university fi stone dog! But it amounts to the same thing. Universities are in such plentiful supply that the issue of wasted resources is now on the national agenda.

imagesLast year, Sir Roderick Floud, former president of Universities UK, made an alarming public statement: half of UK universities should be closed. His remarks were carried by the Telegraph on June 19: “I believe we have too many universities, that they are trying to do too many different things, and that the way we fund their research is fundamentally flawed”.

Practically all universities in the UK are financed by government. So cynics might argue that Floud’s belief is just the backward opinion of an elitist, conservative administrator wanting to curtail public spending on higher education. There may be some truth to that. But Floud does have a point. In the 1990s, British polytechnics were magically transformed into universities with the wave of a wand, it would seem.

Instead of specialising in professional vocational education, polytechnics began to duplicate the offerings of traditional universities. I suppose it’s similar to what the University of Technology has been doing in recent years: replicating practically all the professional programmes offered by the University of the West Indies. Incidentally, UTECH hasn’t even applied for accreditation of its dental programme! And the first graduates are about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world.

This is how Floud sums up the problem: “We don’t need two or more universities in each of our major cities, glowering at each other and competing to attract the attentions of businesses and local authorities.

“Why does Leeds or Sheffield or Oxford, for example, need two vice-chancellors, registrars or groups of governors?

“In London, the situation is even more bizarre, with some 40 universities within the M25 [the motorway that circles the city] and more arriving by the day. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has remained supine in the face of evidence that all this is unnecessary and inefficient.”

OVERSUPPLY, DOUBTFUL QUALITY

hydel_univOf course, our situation is different. We do need more than one university in Kingston. There’s a huge market for tertiary education. But the twin problem of oversupply and doubtful quality can’t be conveniently forgotten. Last week, I was reminded of this issue in a conversation with Dr. Henley Morgan, who was appointed Chancellor of the former Hydel University College in December.

Yes, Hydel does have a Chancellor. As Dr. Morgan explains, “not a ceremonial role as is the custom throughout the Commonwealth university system, but rather the executive role of Instructional Leader, as it is used in the American community college system”. And he made an amusing admission: “It’s funny but 7 out of 10 persons I tell of my latest calling ask if I’ve read your articles on the subject of unregistered institutions and unaccredited courses”.

Dr. Morgan has not only read the articles; he’s taken immediate action. He’s prioritised and expedited the necessary process for Hydel’s registration as a tertiary education institution and hosted the University Council of Jamaica on a site visit. Dr. Morgan brought to my attention the fact that the sign proclaiming Hydel as a university was removed even before his appointment.

Perhaps my sceptical columns persuaded the founder/president, Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett, to set more realistic goals. In any case, I’m glad commonsense has prevailed. And I wish Chancellor Morgan well as he attempts to transform Hydel College into a viable tertiary institution.

NOT SETTLING FOR WAT-LEF

Then there’s another side to the business of oversupply of British universities that we can’t afford to ignore. Many institutions have resorted to exporting their programmes. We, in the Caribbean, are a targeted market. But we have to be careful that we’re not settling for wat-lef. And we do have our own academic programmes that we can export.

UnknownEarlier this month, the 3rd CARIFORUM-EU business forum took place in MoBay. Its purpose was to review economic partnership agreements and, hopefully, increase trade with Europe in three areas of our competitive advantage: agro-processing, music and higher education. I was invited to speak at a roundtable on higher education.

Focusing on the potential of creative industries programmes to transform academic institutions, I drew attention to the accomplishments of the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies. Over the last two decades, scores of undergraduate and graduate students have come to the Mona campus from across the world to do research on Jamaican popular music and related cultural forms.

I also highlighted the innovative undergraduate degree programme in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management that was introduced by the Reggae Studies Unit in 2007. And I talked about the proposal I recently developed, in consultation with several colleagues, to establish a multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty Centre for the Creative Industries and Cultural Enterprise at UWI.

We must acknowledge the relationship between culture, creativity and economic development and use our talents to our own advantage. Or we will remain trapped in debt, constantly dependent on our former colonial masters to feed us with scraps from the table.

University Fi Stone Dog – Seet Deh!

jluTwo spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING
hydel_univWhat a way time fly! Mi did write one column, ‘University fi stone dog’, weh Gleaner publish pon September 13, 2009. An nuff smaddy did bex wid mi, seh mi a tek liberty wid Hydel University College an di whole heap a odder ‘university’ dem all bout di place weh a gi out degree. See piece a weh mi did seh ya:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Story come to bump! See Gleaner big-big headline last week Wednesday: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Seet deh now! It look like seh mi turn warner woman. But a no me a talk out di tings now. A Gleaner. An truth a truth.

See one next ting mi did seh: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

DRAW BAD CARD

From what mi get fi understand, a ‘university’ put spokes inna Hydel wheel. It look like seh if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef so-so ‘college’, dem gone clear. Mi no know wa mek dem so hard-ears an nah tek telling. Old-time people seh, ‘High seat kill Miss Thomas puss.’ An it look like seh high name might-a kill Miss Bennett ‘University College’.

Ambition-Picture-3All a wi want fi step up inna life. So mi do understand wa mek Miss Bennett set up university. Hydel got nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, six form, special education centre, ketch-up reading centre, study centre an evening college. ‘University college’ a di next step. But Miss Bennett ha fi dweet right. Yu ha fi creep before yu walk

A di student dem mi sorry fa. How dem fi know seh big-big Hydel deh pon di low? When dem come a Ferry, an see how Hydel sprawl off, how dem coulda even tink seh di ‘university college’ no deh pan UCJ list? After dem pay school fee, dem cerfiticket naa no value? It can’t carry dem nowhere? Dat no right. Dem draw bad card. Mi no know how dem an Miss Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel one. Said same problem a Mico. Me want know wa UCJ a seh. Dem can’t run couple ad, laka FSC, fi warn people bout di bogus degree dem weh no register? If a no UCJ, a who response fi sort out di ‘university’ lotto scam?

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Unknown-2Wat a wie taim flai! Mi did rait wan kalom, ‘University fi stone dog’, we Gleaner poblish pan Septemba 13, 2009. An nof smadi did beks wid mi, se mi a tek libati wid Hydel University College an di uol iip a ada ‘yuunivorsiti’ dem aal bout di plies we a gi out digrii.

Si piis a we mi did se ya:  “So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Tuori kom tu bomp! Si Gleaner big-big edlain laas wiik Wenzde: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Siit de nou! It luk laik se mi ton waana uman. Bot a no mi a taak out di tingz nou. A Gleaner. An chruut a chruut.

Si wan neks ting mi did se: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

JRAA BAD KYAAD

Unknown-5

Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett

Fram wat mi get fi andastan, a ‘university’ put spuoks ina Hydel wiil. It luk laik se if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef suo-so ‘college’, dem gaan klier. Mi no nuo wa mek dem so aad-iez an naa tek telin. Uol-taim piipl se, ‘Ai siit kil Mis Tamas pus.’ An it luk laik se ai niem maita kil Mis Bennett ‘university college’.

Aal a wi waahn fi step op ina laif. So mi duu andastan wa mek Miss Bennett set op yuunivorsiti. Hydel gat norsri, prii-skuul, prep skuul, prii-fos faam, juunya ai, siinya ai, siks faam, speshal edikieshan senta, kech-up riidn senta, stodi senta an iivnin kalij. ‘University College’ a di neks step. Bot Mis Bennett a fi dwiit rait. Yu ha fi kriip bifuor yu waak.

A di styuudent dem mi sari fa. Ou dem fi nuo se big-big Hydel de pan di luo? Wen dem kom a Ferry, an si ou Hydel spraal aaf, ou dem kuda iivn tingk se di ‘university college’ no de pan UCJ lis? Aafta dem pie skuul fii, dem sorfitikit naa no valyu? It kyaahn kyari dem no-we? Dat no rait. Dem jraa bad kyaad. Mi no nuo ou dem an Mis Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel wan. Sed siem prablem a Mico. Mii waan nuo wa UCJ a se. Dem kyaa ron kopl ad, laka FSC, fi waan piipl bout di buogos digrii dem we no rigista? If a no UCJ, a uu rispans fi saat out di ‘yuunivorsiti’ lato skyam?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Unknown-3Time certainly flies! I wrote a column, ‘University fi stone dog’, which was published in The Gleaner on September 13, 2009.  Lots of people were upset with me because they thought I was taking liberties with Hydel University College and all of those other ‘universities’ all over the place that are handing out degrees. Here’s a bit from that column:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Things have come to a head! Here’s last Wednesday’s alarming Gleaner headline: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. There you have it! It seems as if I’m  a warner woman. But I’m not the one raising the alarm now.  It’s the Gleaner. And you just have to face the truth.

Here’s what I also said: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

imagesA  BAD HAND

From what I understand, it’s the name ‘university’ that has put a spoke in Hydel’s wheel. It seems as if all they need to do is take out ‘university’ and keep  ‘college’.  And they’ll be able to get registered.  I don’t know why they’re being so stubborn and not taking advice.  Proverbial wisdom warns,  ‘high-climbing killed Miss Thomas’ cat’.  And it looks as if over-reaching might kill Miss Bennett’s ‘University College’.

All of us want to step up our game.  So I do understand why Miss Bennett has set up a university. Hydel has a  nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, sixth form, special education centre, remedial reading centre, study centre and evening college. ‘University college’ is the next step. But Miss Bennett has to do it right. You have to creep before you walk.

It’s the students I feel sorry for. How could they know that all is not well at Hydel? When they come to Ferry, and see how prosperous Hydel looks, why would it even occur to them that the ‘university college’ is not registered with the UCJ ? After paying fees, they find out that their certificate has no value? It can’t take them anywhere? That’s not right. They’ve been dealt a very bad hand. And I just don’t know how Miss Bennett is going to compensate them.

UCJAnd  Hydel isn’t the only ‘university’ in trouble. Mico University College has the very same problem. I want to know what the UCJ has to say. Can’t the Council run ads, like the  FSC does, to warn prospective students about unregistered degree programmes?  And if it’s not UCJ, who’s responsible for policing the ‘university’ lotto scam?