Eighth Distinguished Alumni Lecture "The Funding of Education at the UWI: The Way Forward"

Eighth Distinguished Alumni Lecture "The Funding of Education at the UWI: The Way Forward"

The Distinguished Alumni Lecture is an annual event, which seeks to honour the exceptional contributions of alumni to a chosen career or professional field. The Lecture also provides an opportunity for such alumni to share their knowledge and expertise with the University community and the general public.

This year the Alumni Lecture was held in the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination on Wednesday, October 22 which started at 7:35 pm and ended at approximately 10:50 pm. The featured speaker was Professor Andrew Downes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor in the Office of Planning and Development. On the topic of the way forward for the funding of education at UWI, he segmented his presentation on:

  • Background aspects of UWI
  • Funding challenges in historical perspective
  • Rationale to public funding
  • Financial arrangements at UWI
  • Funding alternatives
  • Strategic plan: Way Forward

Through the aid of a PowerPoint Presentation, Mr. Downes began by highlighting the development of the University from its onset to its current position of four campuses (including Open Campus). He proudly stated that a degree from this institution is universally accepted. However he also stated that the planning office has recognized difficulties in terms of the coordination of the different faculties which had grown significantly over the years.

In seeking to explain the funding challenges he referred to a statement made by Sir Arthur Lewis, who was the first Vice-Chancellor under the UWI’s independent Charter. Sir Arthur Lewis indicated in 1962 that UWI was founded on the basis that the British Government would provide capital for buildings and equipment. However, this notion changed when independence was granted. Therefore the University had to seek alternative ways of obtaining funding. With expenses ranging from the maintenance of different faculties, the provision of amenities to enhance students’ educational experiences, equipment, wages, and general administration, the cost of education was inevitably affected.

He noted that the bulk of the cost is the economic cost with the tuition fees amounting to 20% of that cost. He also made mention of the Governments, termed ‘Contributing Countries’ who initially signed on to help in the financing of the University. Professor Downes emphasised however, that most times the actual cash required is not received by the University. Instead, only a mere promise or commitment to pay is made. With the Governments presently in debt to UWI, this created a domino effect whereby many more students now have to seek alternative methods to funding their education. Of particular significance, is the current situation which faces Barbadian students whose Government has made it clear that they are no longer able fund their tuitions.

Nonetheless, with these challenges he presented alternative methods that can be put into practice for the funding of education. These included family support, personal savings, loans, the private and public sector, and the alumni and friends of UWI. Furthermore in explanation of his points, Professor Downes stated that the mentality towards funding of education needs to be revised. He advised the younger generation to start putting away monies from now as a financial safeguard for future educational endeavours.

Lastly, in his plea for a way forward he stated that there needs to be a reduced reliance on Government’s assistance. He also highlighted prospects for a movement towards online and distance programming and an adoption of more energy saving services.

Written by: Ambassador Designate Daina Matthew

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