Sat | Dec 9, 2023

UWI Cave Hill in financial bind

Published:Saturday | March 13, 2021 | 12:21 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Professor Eudine Barriteau.
Professor Eudine Barriteau.
An aerial view of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, Barbados.
An aerial view of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, Barbados.

Professor Eudine Barriteau, pro vice-chancellor and principal of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill campus in Barbados, has painted a troubling picture about the state of the institution’s finances.

“The Cave Hill campus is at the financial bare bones. We are challenged that we cannot really go any lower. In the past year, we faced many challenges with ageing and faulty equipment and leaking buildings,” Barriteau told a virtual council meeting yesterday.

Administrators of tertiary institutions in Jamaica recently said that their institutions are struggling to stay afloat due to worsening economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Cave Hill, Barriteau said the campus has gone to extraordinary lengths to reduce its dependence on funds from the University Grants Committee to meet operational budgets, but the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed its success. She explained that in the past six years, the university has employed various cost-reduction measures, doing so without lay-offs. However, with the significant impact of COVID-19 on economic activities, Barriteau said the university’s financial position is more precarious.

“I regret to state that any further cuts in our operational budgets would mean that the campus would have to seriously re-evaluate that option,” she said, adding that the campus has been fully compliant ahead of the UWI-wide ‘Ten-in-two’ initiative that requires campuses to cut expenditures by 10 per cent in two years.

Barriteau said that the administration has had to work hard to increase student enrolment, which declined sharply after the introduction in 2014 of tuition fees for Barbadians.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus registered a marginal increase of 8.2 per cent in enrolment.

“This is the third year that the government of Barbados has resumed paying tuition fees for Barbadian students in undergraduate courses and select fee-paying programmes and, on behalf of these students, I say thanks,” she remarked.

In the meantime, the Cave Hill campus is set to welcome Ghanaian students for its pre-clinical medical programme, following recent approval by Ghana’s national accreditation board.

The UWI has embarked on a triple ‘A’ strategy, which identifies digital transformation as a key strategic objective. It also emphasises innovation in facilities design and management, curriculum reform and the continuous enhancement of learning environment and administrative processes.

“The changes introduced by COVID-19 will be long-term, but they underscore how the preparatory and effective planning of the campus that we have employed, has equipped us to manage the effects of the pandemic in our campus community,” she said.