Our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan with its three pillars of Access, Alignment and Agility engendered tremendous impetus to a fundamental rethink of our operations, particularly in considering a new modus operandi with regard to our funding strategy.
In February 2018, the conversation with our regional governments regarding the funding strategy took a new direction when the Heads of Government of CARICOM at their 29th Inter-sessional Meeting received a presentation from Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles on strategies for financing not only The UWI but the regional tertiary education sector.
Heads gave their blessing to The UWI exploring alternative financing strategies. They also mandated the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. The Hon. Timothy Harris to work with The UWI in engaging with contributing governments to address the arrears owed to The UWI. The engagement and diplomacy at this level resulted in an encouraging response from our government some of whom–Belize, the Cayman Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands– cleared their accounts as at July 31, 2018.
Among the significant outcomes of the Inter-sessional meeting in Haiti was the agreement to the innovative debt-swapping arrangement. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago was the first to move, making available to The UWI the new state-of-the-art Couva Hospital and Multi Training Facility. A special partnership between the St. Augustine Campus and an external entity has now resulted in a proposal for an offshore for-profit medical training institution using the Couva Hospital as a base.
In its customisation of the debt-swap, the Government of Barbados arranged for 50% of its arrears to be taken off the books and offered a Series B Bond with strips having maturities between five and fifteen years. The Government of Barbados entered into an arrangement to settle the amount outstanding on the Bond in two tranches payable in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Other governments made commitments of land. Grenada and The Bahamas have led the way in this regard. Vice-Chancellor Beckles has also been in communication with the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica, with regard to the transfer of lands on which The UWI is located, to the institution. The value of these lands would make a considerable difference to the balance sheet and to potential future investors in The UWI.
Regional private sector finance leaders joined The UWI's leadership in retreat to discuss mechanisms to bring the institution to market with investment instruments. Presentations by Professor Densil Williams, Pro Vice- Chancellor for Industry-Academic Partnerships, and the five Campus Principals outlined a roster of potential projects for private investments using bonds and Initial Public Offerings (IPO) options. Following on these discussions, a select strategy committee will begin the task of preparing the institution for investment readiness and carving the path to the private market.
In this effort to restore its financial health, The UWI is making a brave and unprecedented shift from the traditional financial model of education in the region. Its commitment remains balancing prudent and responsible management with visionary and imaginative initiatives.
When the University Grants Committee (UGC) met in November 2018 to examine alternative sources of funding, its Chair, Barbados' Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment, the Honourable Mia Mottley, proposed the establishment of a University Trust Fund to manage The UWI's wealth potential, which could be initially capitalised by participating governments through the physical assets and other revenue performing assets that many governments had pledged in settlement of their debts in lieu of cash.
It was also suggested that The UWI could seek gifts of land and shares from governments and individuals, especially alumni, to add to its corporate endowment programme. Altogether, such a Trust Fund is expected to help the University to keep the fees paid by governments and students down to an affordable level.
In February 2019 the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of CARICOM's contributing countries to The UWI met in Antigua and Barbuda to discuss the institution's biennium budgets and requests for funding of its Triple A Strategy.
The TAC, comprising permanent secretaries and technical experts in Education and Finance ministries of governments, examined the reports of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, and campus principals.
It was noted that, in the face of global financial challenges, The UWI had developed strategies to do better with less public funding, and become more financially efficient, while reengineering itself. In recognition of their efforts, the Vice-Chancellor and his team of principals received a standing ovation, and the TAC's commendation for visionary strategic leadership.
In an attempt to accelerate its comprehensive austerity programme, following its strategic plan mid-term review, the UWI executive management team approved a “Ten in Two Strategy” that requires all campuses, Regional Headquarters and the Vice-Chancellery administration to cut expenditure by 10% over the next two years. Operational units were also asked to increase top-line revenue generation by 10% over the same period, to achieve a UWI-wide savings of approximately US$30 million.