A new funding model for tertiary education is among the chief recommendations contained in a Report on Tertiary Education Reform to Government.
This was revealed today as Chairman of the Steering Committee on Tertiary Education and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Professor, Sir Hilary Beckles, handed over the report to Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, at the Elsie Payne Complex.
Noting that Barbados had inherited a funding model following its Independence, he explained that although the model had considered all circumstances facing the island namely, that citizens were living in poverty, were landless, and had seen immigration as the primary path to betterment it was now not sustainable for citizens.
He contended that there was need for a new model that was indigenous, specific to our history and to the aspirations of our citizens and within our grasp in terms of capacity to manage it. “It has to be linked to the psychological profile of every citizen and all of these things have to be interlocked if that model is going to work,” Sir Hilary said.
Stressing that the model of four decades ago had been “enormously successful”, he said the Barbadian economy had grown systematically to the point where “we are all better off” and the citizens were known for, among other things, “their sophistication in their public discussion”.
Pointing out that the committee had made slight modifications to the traditional model, Sir Hilary said it was argued that “the State should step back now from the 100 per cent participation where it had been historically … to 85 per cent, which would mean that the 15 per cent within that traditional model will have to be shared across the system by other participants.”
“So, we have come up now with a model where we are asking our student participants to make an injection of the five per cent of the cost of education,” Sir Hilary explained.
Acknowledging that the Cave Hill Campus had made a start with the introduction of an amenities fee, he said that it was recommended that this be replicated across the other tertiary institutions and fixed at five per cent of the cost of the degree.
“That will allow the principals of these four institutions to receive some revenues to modernise the plant and to develop the facilities for the students,” he noted.
He added: “Culture, sporting, health and other activities we are asking the students to pay. The Government would pay for the academic costs of your degree but the social cost, the cultural and entertainment cost we would extract that and say ‘yes’ the Government is paying for your tuition but you can pay for your entertainment, sport and recreation.”
He further noted that there would be a role for the private sector which, over the years, had contributed in excess of $50 million to assist the Cave Hill Campus in modernising its plant and constructing over 20 buildings, in the last 10 years. He added that the committee believed that the time had come for the private sector to put its contribution in a formal way to all the tertiary institutions.
Jones, in accepting the document, noted that he was pleased with the report and his ministry would set about to examine it to ensure “it fits neatly into the wider context of what we are doing in education in Barbados”.
“It is not only tertiary and that calls on the resources of the people but nursery, primary education, secondary education as well as technical and vocational areas,” the minister said.
He added: “We know that as we develop the cost will continue to rise and we will have to find mechanisms to keep that cost within a reasonable range but we know we have to provide education to our people.”