By Dr Danny Davis
Chair, Strategic Planning Steering Committee
University of The Bahamas
Let’s begin by establishing my view that University of The Bahamas (UB) is the primary strategic institution for building a strong Bahamas. Having noted that, let’s keep this in perspective: the country will not fail without the University, but it will surely be difficult for it to succeed without a strong University. Toward this end, UB recently released a 2019-2024 Strategic Plan document for internal and public review. This plan provides the foundation for a University which will serve the country, the region and the world by providing quality and relevant tertiary education for decades to come. Since the UB Act of 2016, this plan is one of the most important documents produced by UB.
Is it too ambitious to want to serve the nation, region and world? Definitely not, especially when one considers UB’s nursing graduates are employed in The Bahamas, the region and the world. This demonstrates UB has a product which is willingly and readily consumed beyond our borders. The strategic direction defined in the plan acknowledges this strength and motivates us to continue to build undergraduate programmes which are best in class and offer cutting edge graduate degrees. While UB has many successful academic programmes, there are others which require strengthening, this strategic plan defines a mechanism which ensures the quality of all academic programmes.
It is imperative UB makes the difficult decisions which will advance the institution and, by extension, build the nation. As the national tertiary institution with over 65 undergraduate bachelor degree programmes, we must accept UB cannot be responsible for training every professional in the country; some of our national training needs will have to be outsourced to other universities. However, there are others we simply cannot afford to outsource. I offer music as one example and, yes, there are others.
A single item list is not expected to be exhaustive and this one surely isn’t intended to be. There may even be a few academic programmes that should be discontinued. Difficult decisions, however, are usually a question of expediency versus long-term benefits. Recognizing that universities are intended to be pillars of a modern society, there is no place in our Bahamas for expediency as it relates to University of The Bahamas. The University is expected to last for centuries. We should always choose the options that are in UB’s long-term best interest.
The UB 2019-2024 strategic plan identifies the need to “Improve Operational Efficiencies/Customer Service for a Culture of Excellence” as a high priority goal. There is an undeniable culture of inefficiency across the country. Before we point fingers at the government ministries as prime examples of this, let us not forget the feeling of frustration we experience when trying to use the services of any commercial bank in this country. It is not just the large companies and government ministries that are plagued by inefficiencies and poor customer service. It is also the physician’s office that has a longer than acceptable waiting time disguised as musical chairs as patients are juggled from one room to another as if that somehow mysteriously stops or slows the passage of time.
The University should feel an obligation to help the country work through these inefficiencies. But, in order to do so, it must first eliminate its own inefficiencies. The University must not be a reflection of the current Bahamas. It is called to a higher position; it must be the reflection the country hopes to see when it looks in the mirror. We must have a collective desire to do better. The strategic plan sends a clear message to the UB community and the nation that we have a few things to improve before we are able to talk about our national inefficiencies. It follows then that, without applying too much pressure, the University’s ability to support national growth is explicitly linked to its ability to strategically engage and achieve the goals defined in this new strategic plan.
In essence, this plan is about more than just the goals the University is setting for itself. It is also about the goals it is setting for the country. UB’s motto, “Knowledge, Truth, Integrity”, must live through our collective actions.
This 2019-2024 strategic plan is the foundation upon which we define how the country will develop. It is not the five-year plan of any past, present or future governing party. It is the foundation for all future strategic plans and the aspirations against which future UB presidents will be hired and Board of Trustees members recruited. How the University defines its budget to support strategic goals, deploys its human resources and fills positions will speak volumes with regard to how successful the implementation of this plan will be. Also, as UB seeks to increase alumni and corporate giving, the strategic plan will allow donors to align themselves with the aspirations of the institution.
The University must not allow this plan to sit on a shelf; instead, the document must influence its daily activities over the next five years. We intend for UB to thrive and serve our country, the region and the world by providing quality and relevant tertiary education for decades to come. This strategic plan is the foundation upon which such a university can be built.
Every goal in the strategic plan is supported by multiple objectives. The action items that support the objectives have predefined, measurable performance outcomes. These outcomes will facilitate the determination of our overall success in the implementation of this plan. And it is the implementation that makes all the difference. No matter how proficient the architect, it is the contractor that brings the plan to life. Our plan is complete, our administrators, faculty and staff are charged with the execution, but the students and the student government association must hold the University accountable for keeping to the plan. Further, they too must develop a plan which defines their contribution towards building UB.
Finally, the members of the general public must not be spectators to this transformation. You must review the progress dashboards and get involved. We are all UB. The buildings do not make the University, we must all commit to building in earnest.