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The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), even before its official launch today is already arousing international interest in its programmes, and its recently hosted offshore systems basic course at its Point Lisas campus attracted engineers from Venezuela and as far afield as Germany and Qatar. And so great is the demand for university training in Trinidad and Tobago and in the wider Caribbean Community of Nations that even in advance of the UTT's official opening some 1,900 students — undergraduates and post graduates — have been admitted to pursue the various programmes being offered. What is of critical importance is that the UTT will be at the upper end of a structured education programme, and training in Trinidad and Tobago from the pre-school level, through primary and secondary schools, literally will be geared to persons thinking of pursuing tertiary education.

The intention is to meet the country's need for skilled people, unfortunately in short supply. UTT will not cater for the broad mix of courses offered by the University of the West Indies but will instead place emphasis, largely, on meeting the specific needs of the country to take it forward as rapidly as possible to be an industrialised nation. It will focus, as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Patrick Manning, stated in his Budget Speech, “on programmes in engineering and technology, research, innovation, entrepreneurship and the humanities.” In addition, it will “expand its course offerings to include graduate programmes in the field of Offshore Technologies, namely: refining, gas processing and marketing, petroleum management, natural gas technology and electrical management. Degree programmes will be extended to manufacturing engineering, computer technology, earth sciences and maritime technologies,” Mr Manning had added.

The presence of relatively huge reserves of crude and natural gas supplies, and the reality of Trinidad and Tobago being a major supplier of liquefied natural gas to the United States — 75 per cent of its 2003 requirements — along with globalisation, has demanded that we rethink the way we see ourselves and redefine our roles in the energy industry. Trinidadians and Tobagonians can no longer be passive partners in the crude and natural gas production, management and delivery exercise, content to be told how much crude was being produced and how and to whom our natural gas, albeit in liquefied form, was being sold, even though the difference in price could vary sharply from one customer to another. But by preparing our citizens to be more involved, and by defining the way new contracts should be drawn up, with the country having a distinct shareholding in future energy enterprises and ipso facto in their management, we may better position ourselves to optimise returns for the country's benefit, and by extension the country's citizens.

The attracting of foreign engineers to the course at the Point Lisas campus represented a strong beginning to the Caribbean Community of Nations' (Caricom) third university, the two others being the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Guyana both of which were established in 1962. UWI had begun in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies (UCWI), an affiliate of London University. UTT's launch today at the Trinidad Hilton will be exactly 47 years after the late Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (then Chief Minister) made the announcement which created much controversy at the time that his Government would be setting up a University of Trinidad. Had Dr Williams gone ahead with his proposal the university of Trinidad would have been the first full fledged university in the English speaking Caribbean, as the then UCWI was still an adjunct of London University.

Hopefully, the University of Trinidad and Tobago will urge on citizens a redefinition of themselves and make for a deeper and clearer understanding that the challenges of globalisation can only be effectively met with the required training and the development of business skills which will allow for the country's agricultural products and small manufactures to be competitive in the market place and complement both crude and natural gas as revenue earners.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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