Registrar: Forensic audit into UTT needed

On the heels of news of the pos­si­ble clo­sure of the Uni­ver­si­ty of T&T (UTT) Corinth Cam­pus in south Trinidad, the Reg­is­trar has re­vealed that they are not aware that there was any stake­hold­er con­sul­ta­tion in the process. There is now a des­per­ate call for a foren­sic au­dit in­to UTT.

A mem­o­ran­dum dat­ed May 8, 2019 ti­tled “Cam­pus and Pro­gramme Ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion - Utt Corinth Cam­pus” (that was leaked to the Guardian Me­dia) was sent to UTT’s pres­i­dent and provost (act­ing), Sarim Al-Zubaidy by Reg­is­trar Phillip Robin­son who sought to draw ref­er­ence to the Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Coun­cil of Trinidad and To­ba­go (ACTT) Gen­er­al Con­di­tions of In­sti­tu­tion­al Ac­cred­i­ta­tion for post-sec­ondary and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, which was signed by the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the ACTT and the UTT pres­i­dent on April 5, 2018.

Robin­son ex­plained that the con­di­tions in that doc­u­ment out­lined UTT’s oblig­a­tions af­ter in­sti­tu­tion­al ac­cred­i­ta­tion sta­tus was grant­ed to the date of ex­pi­ra­tion (that is, De­cem­ber 17, 2017 – De­cem­ber 16, 2024).

“Un­der the gen­er­al con­di­tions for in­sti­tu­tion­al ac­cred­i­ta­tion, “sub­stan­tive changes” are de­fined as changes made af­ter the award of ac­cred­it­ed sta­tus and in­clude in­ter alia: The with­draw­al or dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of a pro­gramme in which stu­dents are en­roled; The clo­sure of an ex­ist­ing site for teach­ing and learn­ing or re­search ac­tiv­i­ties,” the memo stat­ed.

“In any case, sub­stan­tive changes re­quire ex­ten­sive stake­hold­er con­sul­ta­tion and re­view by Ex­ec­u­tive Man­age­ment and more sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the Aca­d­e­m­ic Coun­cil as the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body in the Uni­ver­si­ty,” it added.

It al­so sought to draw Al-Zubaidy’s at­ten­tion to an email thread cul­mi­nat­ing on May 3, 2019 with the cap­tion “Clo­sure of the Corinth Cam­pus” in which the cor­po­rate sec­re­tary ad­vised the Reg­is­trar that “This is an on-go­ing mat­ter and in (is) cur­rent­ly be­fore the BOG...”.

It stat­ed that the pres­i­dent’s mem­o­ran­dum was based on a sub­se­quent email that was ad­dressed to him en­quir­ing in­to ac­tions to be tak­en with re­spect to ap­pli­ca­tions that have been re­ceived for pro­grammes of­fered at the Corinth Cam­pus.

Robin­son out­lined sev­er­al is­sues in­clud­ing the fact that the Reg­is­trar is not aware that there was any stake­hold­er con­sul­ta­tion in the process, “This is sup­port­ed by the fact that the Pres­i­dent is in­form­ing the Reg­is­trar on May 7, 2019 af­ter the Board of Gov­er­nors has al­ready ap­proved a sub­stan­tive change and it has been re­ferred to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion;

“As a mem­ber of the Aca­d­e­m­ic Coun­cil, the Reg­is­trar can­not re­call the is­sue of the Corinth Cam­pus clo­sure be­ing dis­cussed at any of the Coun­cil’s in­ter­mit­tent meet­ings; As a mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Man­age­ment Group, the Reg­is­trar can­not re­call any dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter, al­though his mem­o­ry may have failed him due to the fact that such a meet­ing has not been held for more than a year,” Robin­son said.

“ It is un­clear the ex­tent to which the Reg­istry or Stu­dent Sup­port Ser­vices (as the units pri­mar­i­ly charged with the ad­vance­ment of stu­dent wel­fare) were in­volved in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process,” he added.

A UTT staff mem­ber, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied, said that it is the be­lief that ACT’s gen­er­al con­di­tions are cur­rent­ly be­ing ig­nored.

The staff mem­ber said, “They changed most pro­grammes that were three terms to two se­mes­ters and the stu­dents are com­plain­ing that the work to cov­er in a short­er pe­ri­od of time is too much. Where have you heard part time pro­gramme on a two se­mes­ter sys­tem? While oth­ers in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing de­cen­tral­ized and mak­ing their pres­ence felt in south we are head­ing east.

The first, sec­ond and third largest cam­pus­es are Point Lisas, San Fer­nan­do and Corinth cam­pus­es re­spec­tive­ly.”

“The ma­jor­i­ty of our stu­dents are from south Trinidad which is clear­ly in­di­cat­ed by the cam­pus­es with the largest stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. Ra­tio­nal­iza­tion to save mon­ey and get val­ue for mon­ey! Who are they fool­ing? There are cam­pus­es like Cam­den and Ch­aguara­mas that we don’t get val­ue for mon­ey. But be­cause the UTT pres­i­dent LOVES avi­a­tion mon­ey is spent be­hind that cam­pus and those pro­grammes. Where is the val­ue for mon­ey there?” the staff mem­ber added.

Last week, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia said that no de­ci­sion has yet been tak­en to close the UTT’s Corinth cam­pus.

 - Rhondor Dowlat

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