Long admired for world-class academics moulding young minds, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, could be depleted of such individuals in the next few years.
Professor Hubert Devonish has estimated that some 300 academics are due to retire in the next five years, and replacements are hard to find because of comparatively low salaries.
Devonish noted that UWI brought salaries down to regional levels decades ago, but the continuing slide of the Jamaican dollar has had a negative impact.
"For those who are here, like me, who are close to retirement, … we'll just stay on," he said. "(But) the young people who are qualified won't come. Our intellectual capital is running out," he said.
Devonish was presenting the findings of a study on Sustainable Funding of the University of the West Indies, conducted by the West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT), on Tuesday. He said the study showed that in 2010-2011, the UWI made more tax revenue than the Government gave it in subvention, approximately $4 billion.
WIGUT President Anthony Perry said unlike other unions who demand better pay come hell or high water, WIGUT did the study to show it was not only a place of learning, but a solid investment for the Government, a major employer, and to dispel the notion that the university was a drain on the public purse. According to the study, in 2010-2011, the UWI contributed US$33 million in foreign exchange, which was more than the banana, sugar, cocoa and citrus industries combined.
'NO CHARITY CASE'
"So we're no charity case," he said.
With projections indicating the UWI will continue to do better than its subvention, WIGUT is proposing the Government give it an annual reinvestment grant calculated on the Government's collection in statutory deductions plus the general consumption tax on the expenditure by UWI staff and students. As a condition of the grant, WIGUT proposed the grant be "retrospective".
"We're saying if at the end of the year we generate revenue which are in excess of what the Government gives us, we get it back," he said.
The proposal had been presented to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance and Planning. Further discussions are expected, but they are awaiting a response. The study took approximately a year to complete and was presented as part of the UWI Research Week.