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UTT hunting for foreign lecturers

Published: 
Sunday, April 15, 2018

Despite facing serious financial difficulty, the University of T&T (UTT) is currently looking for two highly-qualified professors from abroad as they claim their the skillset cannot be found locally.

The Sunday Guardian was told that a vacancy ad was published on April 9 for a Professor—Structural Engineering, Project Management and Civil Infrastructure Systems. The deadline for applicants is May 8. According to the “job/purpose/summary” the applicant/s must provide strategic and operational direction and overall leadership to the respective academic programme.

The university has since received several applications for the post, including several people applying from the Middle East region—a few of them said to be well-known to or connected to UTT president Sarim Al-Zubaidy.

Al-Zubaidy is an engineer with over 30 years experience in both senior academic and administrative positions in a variety of higher education institutions around the world.

Contacted for comment yesterday, UTT deputy chairman of the board of governors, Professor Clement Imbert confirmed several applicants were from the Middle East region, but added that Al-Zubaidy said he knew some of them very well and immediately recused himself.

“He (referring to Al-Zubaidy) did recuse himself from any consideration or any interview and any decision,” Imbert said.

However, it seemed as though those applicants were T&T bound when Imbert immediately added: “But, they are not coming again…for whatever reason. They are not coming again.”

He did not go on further.

Imbert said the Civil Engineering Faculty was still unable to get the required accreditation because they did not have staff of a certain qualified level.

“We don’t have all the ingredients and the main ingredient we do not have is that PhD-qualified individual,” Imbert said.

He said UTT was looking to hire two PhD qualified engineers, including one specialised in hydraulics.

“We are looking for somebody to be a little wide in the field and not too specific because they would have to teach three or four classes. We have been looking for the past two years. Even locally, someone who holds a PhD we have asked to come on post-retirement contract, but he has refused too.”

The faculty is currently headed by Professor Winston Suite, who Imbert said had been on post-retirement contracts for the past seven years. He said whilst UTT could not afford to lose someone like Suite, he was ageing and added it was imperative the university put out the vacancy ad internationally.

When contacted for a comment yesterday, Suite, who is in his mid 70s, said the situation was a very delicate and complex one. He said recruiting staff from abroad, especially from the middle East and other regions that had unrest and war, might result in a situation where they could use coming to T&T as a stepping stone to enter the US or other countries. Suite suggested that it may be better in the long term bring back T&T citizens who may have the required qualifications from wherever in the world they may be.

“That is why I say it is a delicate and complex one. We do not have many people here with PhDs and the few that we may find, for them, it may be more financially beneficial for then to go elsewhere as consultants internationally because of the remuneration packages offered, but we have to be careful of who from other countries who are experiencing unrest, war and economic problems we bring here,” Suite said.

MORE INFO

On November 1 2017, UTT’s chairman of the board of governors Prof Kenneth Julien announced that UTT will not be able to continue operations beyond January 2018.

He also noted that effective November 10, there were expected to be significant job cuts at the managerial and academic levels. Julien said this was a result of severe financial constraints over the past year.

Julien explained that the challenges worsened with the further 11 per cent decrease in UTT’s 2017/2018 recurrent allocation to $200 million. UTT usually gets a monthly subvention of $16.7 million, but for the months of October 2017 and November 2017 they only received $10 million for each month.

UTT recorded a deficit of $33 million in November 2017 while its reserves currently stand at $2 million.

In January, the Sunday Guardian reported that 287 members of staff were to be retrenched. When this exercise is done it is expected to save the university approximately $41.5 million.

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