The University was established and incorporated by an Ordinance enacted by the Legislature in April, 1963, and the Government’s policy in relation to this institution is as follows:-
1. To create an intellectual nucleus in Guyana, partly as a centre around which some systematic definition of the national purpose can take place, and partly as a defence against the persistent battering from external colonialist and reactionary ideas (against which colonial and backward societies are so helpless).
2. To train middle range technical cadres in large numbers.
3. To train an adequate number of high level professionals to exercise intellectual leadership in Guyana, and man position of highest responsibility.
4. To undertake active research.
The ordinance also provides that “No religious, political or racial test shall The University Of Guyana - 50 Years Laterbe imposed on or required of any person in order to entitle him to be a student or member of the University or to occupy any position in or on the staff of the University.”
The first Chancellor of the University was Mr. Edgar Mortimer Duke, C.B.E., LL.B., a distinguish Guyanese. The Board the members of the Board of Governors, all of whom are Guyanese, were:-
* The Hon. Dr. Charles Jacob, Jnr., F.B.O.A., M.R.S.H., OD. – Honorary Treasurer of the University
* The Hon. Dr. F.H.W. Ramsahoye, B.A., LL.M., PH.D.,
* The Hon. Raji Chandisingh, A.B.,
* Mr. F.W.E. Case, M.A.,
* Dr. C.C. Nicholson, M.B., Ch.B.,D.P.H.,
* Dr. Harry Paul, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., D.I.C., F.R.I.C.,
* Mr. M. Shahabuddeen, LL.M., B.Sc., (Econ.),
* Mr. John Carter, B.A., LL.B., Q.C.,
* Mr. J.O.F. Haynes, B.A., LL.B., Q.C.,
* And Mr. H.R. Persaud, B.A.
The University was fortunate to secure as its first Vice Chancellor and Principal, the world famous scholar and educationalist Dr. Lancelot Hogben, M.A., D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.S.
The University has within a relatively short period of time produced highly trained and skilled professionals for our civil service, administrators for our schools, scientists, technologists, doctors and technicians for our national programme of industrial and agricultural development.
Over and above this, the University of Guyana has provided a focus for the intellectual life of the community and a place for enlightened discourse on the socio-economic and political life of the country.
Initially, the University consisted of the faculties of Arts, Natural Science, and Social Science. Today, it has added several new faculties including the faculties of Education, Law, Medicine and Engineering, among others. In addition to the main campus at Turkeyen, a satellite campus has also been established in Berbice.
Through the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE), university education at Diploma and Certificate levels are now accessible to students in all the ten geographical regions of Guyana,
The eager response of Guyanese to these new opportunities for higher education thus opened up was shown by the large number – 680 – who applied from all parts of the country for the limited number of places available. One hundred and seventy nine were admitted. Of these, thirty were holders of scholarships offered by the B.G. Rice Marketing Board and one offered by Messrs. R.V. Evan Wong & Sons.
In order to make it easier for those Guyanese, who normally would not be able to afford the time or money for higher studies, the University, in its initial period, implemented some special features. Classes were held between 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. five evenings per week. Thus, the working man was afforded the opportunity to attend. Tuition fees were $100 per year – a figure within the reach of all income groups. The minimum entrance requirements were five (5) ‘O’ Level subjects at G.C.E. or its equivalent.
One important point to note was that despite attempts to democratize university education and bring it within the reach of all Guyanese, care was taken to ensure that there was no lowering of standards. This was done through the use of external examiners and tutors from reputable universities in order to ensure that high standards are maintained and good quality controls both with respect to teaching and research.
In 1964, the first phase of the building programme for the University campus begins. A large tract of land at Turkeyen was donated by the Booker Group of Companies, and Committees have set up for fund raising appeals in British Guiana and overseas to secure funds (about $4 million) to build the University.
More perhaps than any other development in the year of education, the birth of the University marks the beginning of real nationhood.