If you are a student at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, then certainly you have been receiving emails regarding your lecturer evaluations. To increase the rate of lecturer evaluations, UWI has, in the past made offers to reward lucky student evaluators. I can no longer evaluate lecturers but instead I need to sign the dreadful supervisors reports. When I did evaluations, the class representative would give us the forms to complete just before or after the professor being evaluated delivers the lecture. Now, all that is done online. Progress. However the offering of prizes and the frequency at which emails are sent encouraging students to complete evaluation forms online indicate that students are just not evaluating the lecturers.
Why Not? Let us evaluate the reasons.
Students are just not interested.
Its flogging a dead horse. Many students, myself included don’t believe any action is taken post lecturer evaluations. I remember in my first year there was a particular lecturer that we absolutely despised. The lecturer was very wicked, but I won’t get in to the details of their exploits. We were asked to evaluate said lecturer and based on the information I gathered literally everyone gave the lecturer the lowest score (1 out of 5). Others drew a circle beside the box with one and drew a zero inside before shading it. This was a little extreme but it emphasizes the students disapproval of the lecturer. I was alarmed to see just a few years later a promotion was approved for the lecturer. There were also cases where lecturers were given maximum points but have not been rewarded accordingly. Politics. So what is the purpose of these evaluations if sanctions and rewards are not issued accordingly.
Incorrect method of encouraging compliance. Each student uses the online learning environment set up by UWI. To encourage students to evaluate lecturers, they may incorporate a pop-up which forces students to complete the form before accessing their learning tools. 100% compliance guaranteed.
If these suggestions are addressed, then only improvements will results.
The Mphil/PhD programs at the University of the West Indies are research based programs which demand a lot of time and resources. Tuition is usually covered in exchange for work done at the associated departments. This work includes tutoring or demonstrating laboratory exercises. Candidates are usually offered a stipend paid in quarterly installments. On paper the grass seems very green and the program is expected to run smoothly but of course this seldom, if ever occurs.
Where it regards payments of stipend, in my experience, it is always late, even up to two months late. While this is inconvenient that is not my primary issue with the program and I am very grateful for the opportunity to research, publish and expose the University to the competitive international world of education.
Provided that the programs are research based, it is not possible to define specifically when one will be finished. Mphil students are given up to three years to complete the program after which they can upgrade to the PhD program or graduate with an Mphil degree. It is possible, if the resources are available, to complete long before the given period, but more often than not, based on my observations, that is not the case. There are occasionally very successful students who are able to complete the program within the proposed time frame for example Peter Nelson, who graduated last year with a PhD in Chemistry at age twenty-five.
The research projects may be funded by independent sponsors, the program supervisor who may have enough resources, or the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. I completed the Mphil program long before the proposed time frame, partially because I had to fund aspects of the study myself. I upgraded to the PhD program and received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. In order to access the funds, one has to make request by filling out a purchase requisition form, have it signed by the head of department and attaching proof of grant received (usually a letter which states the details of the grant) along with pro forma invoices for the items requested. This is then sent to the bursary there the ‘Purchases’ section generates a purchase order. A cheque is sent to the company selling the item, who will then ship it to the department. The process seems very simple and one would expect to receive the items needed in just a few days. Right?… Wrong! What seems to be a simple process, quite often takes months and even years (I know of an incident where a student waited two years to receive an item!). If the item needed is critical for research, you may end up wasting months of your life just waiting, and there is nothing you can do about it.
If you are in the program for too long then the University with send letters to you, kindly asking you to leave, it doesn’t matter that they may be the reason for the delays, you just need to get out!
My personal experience
If you think of all the worst cases, chances are, I have experienced it. But I will just share my most recent case. I noticed over the years that most companies are reluctant to do business with the University, I now know the reason. They also require prepayments even if a purchase order is generated. For my clinical research project I collect blood samples and do amazing sciency stuff with it. The samples need to be stored in a freezer until they are tested. After years of storing my samples on borrowed freezers it has become necessary to move the samples to my lab. I received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research which I used to order a freezer from Courts Jamaica Ltd. I assumed this would be an easy transaction given that it is not an international order and the University has done business with Courts many times before. The first problem I encountered was Courts refusal to deliver the freezer. They claimed that UWI owes them money and until funds are transferred, no delivery will be made. I contacted purchases and they gave a date when the payments will be made, after that date I did a routine follow up and confirmation was given that payment had been made. I checked with courts who denied this claim. After a back and forth battle I was asked to request the order again and a cheque will be prepared! Obviously UWI – PURCHASES department lied to me. I did as was told, and still no delivery has been made. If the transaction is not complete within a week I will purchase the item myself and request a refund (it may take up to a year for me to be refunded). That was one of the things I had to do to complete the Mphil project on time.
This happens too often for it to be an error. If there are any concerns with an order no one will call you to correct it. You have to make it you duty to follow up and often times stand over persons to ensure they do their jobs!
In order for the University to be a first class institution, international publications are needed. It is important that they make available significant funds to assist with research so more quality publications can be made.
They should never lie to students! If the funds are not available, just say so.
Notify individuals of issues relating to a transaction.
Pay the business /companies for items delivered. They would be more inclined to do business with the University.
Expedite the process from requisition to acquisition.
This can maximize the postgraduate student turnover rate, publications, and eventually more students can be accepted.
The University is well aware of some of these issues and is working to fix them. The University has been doing mass expansion across faculties and halls of accommodation so that it can accept more students. More students = more money. The University now has a yearly forum for investors on research days (usually in February) where additional funding for research is received.
The area of research is getting better in Jamaica and though slowly, in time we will be parallel with the developed world.
Today I received an email from the office of the principal, asking me to apply for accommodation at the new hall of residence by the company “138 Student Living”. The new hall, currently under construction, is conveniently located just across from the students union and will be specially targeting “graduate students, medical Interns, Residents and Norman Manley Law School students.” You may take a tour of the facilities here:
After checking out the new accommodation, I figured it would be nice to live there for a while. I sent an email to the company inquiring the cost per month of this new ‘paradise’ and I promptly received a response. The figure they sent me didn’t have a lot of zeros, it had just 3 significant figures. The only problem I had with the figure presented was that the currency was not Jamaican. They don’t have faith in the strength of our Jamaican dollar to quote in such a currency as ours. Of course, the figure was US dollars. The cost per month will be 395 USD. That is currently equivalent to a butt whopping 45784.45 JMD. With that said:
Kidney For Sale!!!
Excellent condition, pees regularly indicating proper filtration. 70 years warranty! No refund no exchange!
The University of the West Indies has always had a problem accommodating the thousands of students applying to live on halls. Most of the campus community are commuters so increased on-campus accommodation is always welcomed. Finding residence within close proximity to the campus can be challenging. I often see students walking around communities such as Mona, asking for a place to rent. Does this new hall solve the problem? I don’t think it is of significant aid as many students cannot afford such a high rent. The post-graduate students who can afford it, are not willing to spend all their stipend on rent alone. At the end of the email was the statement “Your University, providing first world living for first class students. We look forward to hearing from you.” Replacing “first class” with “upper class” would provide a more accurate summary.
The traditional halls such as Irvine Hall are the most affordable but the University is already making plans to demolish Irving Hall to construct a larger place of residence. But what will be the cost? Are there any plans to make more affordable accommodations?
In accessing tertiary education, tuition fee is only a half of the problem, accommodation is a significant factor. It is becoming more difficult for the poorer class to gain tertiary education.
If you see me living there next year, you may rest assured that my kidney was sold.