Our Beginnings

A Conversation with former President, The Late George Maxwell Richards

The UWI-Institute of Business (UWI-IOB) was established in 1989, largely through the efforts of the private sector of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with the University of the West Indies. At the time of economic crisis in the country, the UWI and other institutions were seeking innovative ways to survive and grow. The establishment of the business school is described from the perspective of the then Principal of the UWI, St Augustine and founding Chairman of the Lok Jack GSB in an interview done on March 19, 2010. Today, we share excerpts of this special interview with you.
Other than the widening of the academic offerings, what were the motivations of the UWI for supporting the idea coming from the Private Sector?
I thought it was an obvious thing to do, quite frankly. Because of the environment and because of the dearth of training in these areas, I thought there was a gap. And that gap had to be filled. So we went along with the ideas and I think they proved to be reasonably successful.
What did you see as the major pros and cons of the arrangement between UWI and the Private Sector?
I think the major one was an interchange of ideas between the two. You remember we were in a situation where you had these two groups and they never met. So what I think is the issue was that they were to foster a coming together of these two groups. And of course, you’re operating for a long time in the industry; you have adequate material which could be used for teaching. There are also opportunities for student internships, for example.
Are there any downsides to this kind of arrangement?
I suppose in theory it’s possible for the industry that is giving the bulk of the money to be a little bit demanding and try to extort their pound of flesh. But this never happened. We always found people extremely reasonable to deal with. They were always upfront and I certainly had no regrets whatsoever in the arrangement. I think that there is a possibility that people in the private sector are not too aware of academic standards and criteria. But we did not find this to be a problem at all. I think they accepted the fact that we had our own standards that had to be met.
How was it structured in order to guarantee that the academic focus was the top priority for the school?
It was actually located nominally in the Faculty of Social Sciences, I would hope that the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, like other similar centres and bodies, adheres to the University’s academic standards but are given enough flexibility and leeway in their operations.
From your perspective, how would you describe the quality of the graduates from the Arthur Lok Jack GSB?
The graduates, at least in my time, were extremely well received in commerce; in a way that perhaps some of my own graduates in Engineering were not. They were well received, these MBAs.