The Government of Barbados has reaffirmed its commitment to the continued growth and development of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in general, and the Cave Hill Campus in particular, as a critical provider of tertiary level education for the region.
That commitment came from Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, as he met with the new Principal of the UWI, Professor Eudine Barriteau, during a recent courtesy call at Government Headquarters.
Mr. Sinckler said that his Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, would continue to work on initiatives which would seek to stabilise and further build the future financial sustainability of the Cave Hill Campus.
He lamented that retrenching public officers and making adjustments to its tuition policy at the University were two of the more difficult decisions Government has had to make in its quest to reduce its current spending levels and restore macro-economic stability to the country.
Mr. Sinckler admitted that while some fall in enrolment levels at Cave Hill was not entirely unexpected, the extent to which the numbers had declined was a matter of concern.
In this regard, the Minister indicated to the new principal that Government, through the two relevant ministries, was closely assessing the situation and working on an initiative to assist in UWI???s stabilisation, while ensuring that Government continued to meet its expenditure reduction targets.
He maintained that while the new tuition policy seemed harsh, the alternatives would have been much worse had Government not intervened when it did.
He also informed the new Cave Hill head that his Ministry was at an advanced stage of finalising a solution to liquidate the outstanding arrears owed by the Government of Barbados to the UWI and official word on this would be forthcoming.
Mr. Sinckler pointed out that the UWI and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital were two key institutions, and their long-term sustainability in providing the critical services called for immediate re-examination of the funding models which govern them now and into the future.
In this regard, he assured that the public would be given an opportunity during this financial year to make suggestions on the funding models for education and public health.
He continued: ???There are ideas in the society as to how it should be done and there are different options. Before this financial year ends, after wide public consultations, we should be able to say to Parliament, this is how we propose to handle the financing of these institutions going forward, so everybody can continue to access them.???
Professor Barriteau told the Minister that the Cave Hill Campus would definitely want to be a part of the conversation on financing education.
She said one of her immediate priorities was increasing student enrolment, and welcomed Government???s efforts to assist by putting a plan in place to stabilise the numbers at the University. ???We are very pleased that this is happening and I think the student body, in fact, will welcome it,??? she remarked.
She gave Minister Sinckler the assurance that the Campus would continue to work very closely with Government.
She acknowledged that the Cave Hill Campus and Barbados were going through difficult periods but stressed they were both greater than what they were currently experiencing. ???So, even though there are challenges, we can see the other side,??? she stressed.