Prudent UWI Correction
It is the duty and the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the resources of the country are spent in the most prudent manner. In a situation where the resources are already under pressure, government has to take the tough decision to ensure the viability of the service being offered. The area of education has been one of the areas where Government has taken the decision that an intervention was necessary to halt a runaway budget before it collasped the entire educational system.
In the presentation made to the DLP’s Annual Conference, Prime Minister Stuart articulate what has been the DLP’s longstanding policy as it relates to UWI education:
“One area in which the stridency was very evident was that related to the contribution by student to the cost of their education at the University.
This measure, in which government still continues to meet 80% of the cost, was described variously as a declaration of war on the poor, a cutting back of the opportunities available for persons to access university education, a repudiation of Errol Barrow’s legacy, and an attempt to undermine the viability of the university itself…
The response of the Democratic Labour Party in government to this particular challenge has a history which needs to be told.
As long ago as October 1980 the DLP in Opposition had been reflecting on what its policies should look like on its eventual return to government. Through its Academy of Politics, the Party hosted a series of lectures under the theme “Social Problems We Face”. One of those lectures was delivered by Dr. Leonard Shorey who spoke on the subject: “Perspectives on Education in Barbados” Amongst the views clearly expressed in that lecture, Dr. Shorey insisted that to avoid the proliferation of imbalances produced by the tertiary education system, a future government of Barbados should link funding for students to national priorities and manpower needs.
Five years later when the Party was celebrating its 30th Anniversary, it produced an 84 page publication bearing the title “30 Years and Onward” which highlighted both its achievements for the first 30 years of its existence and what it proposed to do on its return to office. At page 60 of that publication it stated as follows: “A DLP Government will work more closely with the UWI so as to determine where priorities lie and to determine how many places will be funded in each faculty, based on plans and manpower projections.” I might add that the foreword to that 84 page publication was written by Errol W. Barrow. The Party has never contemplated funding university education for all students indefinitely.
It has always contemplated some students assuming responsibility for their education at some stage. For that reason it passed the Student Revolving Fund Act in 1976 to facilitate student loans. Present policy is in keeping with that commitment and also with the Barrow legacy.”
Over time it will be seen that the decisions taken by the government to right size the budget of the University of the West Indies will work out to the benefit of the students and the people of Barbados. What could would the University be to the country if it had been allowed to continue on its trajectory with an unsustainable financial model? It would have led to the collapse of the educational system in Barbados.
This measures also brings into focus the importance of the University to meet the demands of the students and the workplace by focusing more on quality as oppose to through-put. A university education was never intended to be a factory production line where the focus is on the number of units produced. A university education should be tailored-made and hand crafted. Creating specialty pieces which meets the needs of the end-user and which over all benefits the environment where it has been deposited.
The focus of the University of the West Indies should be on creating programmes where students exiting the campus are equipped with the skills and knowledge which are in demand in the workforce; placing them at a competitive edge locally, regionally and internationally.
Finally, it must be noted that UWI cannot be the single largest beneficiary of the resources of the Government. It is time that greater emphasis is placed on the other institutions such as: the Barbados Community College, The Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, The Secondary Schools and the Primary Schools as well as other technical and vocational training centres so that they too can assist in the development of our workforce to exceptional world class standards.