In 2023 the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) will commemorate its 65th anniversary, marking an impressive history of invaluable contributions to Jamaica, the region, and the global community.
Reflecting on UTech's past and looking 10 years into the future, I am left to ask myself, "Isn't it time we tell UTech to make big and bold strategic moves and reshape, reinvent, and redefine itself as the leading university in the next decade? However, the billion-dollar question UTech must answer is: Leading in what? Is it to reclaim and lead in the polytechnic space? Is it to lead in business? Is it to lead in law? Is it to lead in the natural sciences? Is it to lead in teacher education? Is it to lead in hotel and tourism management? Is it to lead in the humanities and the behavioural sciences? Or is it to lead as the top interdisciplinary universities in the region?
You have to choose, UTech! Consider the following crazy ideas.
As UTech embarks on its journey of transformation over the next decade, it is essential to re-evaluate and refine its mission and vision to reflect the institution's evolving goals and aspirations. The current vision, as stated on the university's website, is to become the leading institution in the Caribbean for producing work-ready leaders who are dedicated to transforming society through high-quality teaching, research, and value-added services by 2025.
However, this vision could be reimagined to emphasise UTech's commitment to excelling in knowledge transfer and research and development while providing the finest professional education for the betterment of Jamaica, the region, and the world.
The current mission, while laudable, neglects to mention the invaluable contributions of UTech's staff, who form the backbone of the university. To remedy this, I propose the mission be restructured to encompass "a community that nurtures innovative thinking, creativity, a sense of pride, and a supportive environment that safeguards the well-being of its staff". By redefining both the vision and mission, UTech can ensure that its guiding principles and objectives are more inclusive, comprehensive, and aligned with the university's long-term goals, enabling it to maintain its position as a leading institution in the region and beyond.
As UTech embarks on a journey to reshape, reinvent, and redefine itself over the next decade, I propose a comprehensive global initiative to drive this transformation. This initiative comprises four key strategic components that will holistically address the university's development and growth, ensuring its continued success in the increasingly competitive global landscape.
It will focus on expanding the university's international reach, securing funding for cutting-edge research and development, fostering global partnerships for infrastructural development, and cultivating collaborations in the rapidly evolving field of emerging technologies. By leveraging the combined strengths of these strategic components, UTech will be well positioned to adapt to the changing needs of students, faculty, and industry partners while maintaining its commitment to academic excellence and innovation.
Through the global initiative, it will create a vibrant and interconnected community of learners, educators, and researchers; transcend geographical boundaries; drive progress; and impact regional and global scales.
The Global Alumni Mobilisation (U-GAM) initiative will seek to strengthen UTech's relationship with its alums by establishing a global network of graduates, thereby enabling the university to tap into their diverse experiences, knowledge, and resources. This international network will create new opportunities for mentorship, collaboration, and support, helping UTech to thrive in a globalised world.
The university can tap into its alums' vast resources, expertise, and passion by identifying key Diaspora chapters and organising events to foster connection. A comprehensive communication strategy, specific Diaspora support projects, and alums engagement opportunities with current students and faculty will ensure a vibrant and fruitful exchange of ideas. Establishing a UTech alum association will further strengthen the sense of belonging to a global UTech community, propelling the university's growth and success over the next 10 years.
UTech's Global Partnership in Infrastructural Development (U-GPID) component will focus on forging strategic partnerships with international institutions and organisations to facilitate development and improve the university's infrastructure. These collaborations will support the construction of state-of-the-art facilities, the implementation of innovative learning spaces, and the enhancement of campus-wide amenities, positioning UTech as a leading institution in the region.
By investing in its infrastructure, UTech will be able to provide an optimal learning environment that attracts top students, faculty, and industry partners, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. Additionally, a modernised campus will contribute to the overall well-being of the university community, thus improving the quality of life for students, staff, and faculty. In the long run, a robust and advanced infrastructure will serve as a foundation for UTech's sustained growth and success, allowing the institution to respond to emerging trends and challenges in higher education effectively.
The Global Partnership in Emerging Technology (U-GPT) initiative will establish UTech as a hub for emerging technology by cultivating international partnerships with leading technology companies, research institutions, and universities. These collaborations will enable UTech to remain at the forefront of technological advancements, providing students and faculty access to cutting-edge resources, fostering interdisciplinary research, and driving the development of innovative solutions to global challenges.
To successfully implement U-GPT, the university must identify and prioritise emerging technology fields that align with UTech's strengths, vision, and the region's needs, such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy, biotechnology, and digital manufacturing. By conducting comprehensive research, developing strategic approaches, and leveraging the expertise of UTech alums, it can create collaborative programmes and initiatives with international partners that promote knowledge-sharing and capacity-building, as well as the development of innovative solutions to address local, regional, and global challenges.
Securing external funding sources and regularly monitoring and evaluating the progress and impact of the U-GPT initiative will ensure its alignment with UTech's strategic objectives and deliver tangible benefits to the university and its stakeholders. It is time for UTech to start knocking on the doors of Google, Microsoft, IBM, Tesla, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the XPRIZE Foundation to develop joint research projects, exchange expertise, and provide students with internships and job opportunities focused on technology and innovation and aimed at addressing global challenges through emerging technologies.
It cannot be business as usual at UTech as it celebrates 65 years.
Henry Lewis Jr is a PhD candidate, a social scientist, and an executive life coach. He lectures at University of Technology, Jamaica, in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.