Its own ingenuity and private sector generosity are all that’s saving the University of the West Indies’ Barbados campus from “bleeding” to death financially.
Principal of the Cave Hill campus, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said the ongoing “mess”, which has seen Government indebted to the campus by more than $150 million had seen it come full circle, since when he assumed leadership there he found an institution that was underfunded and “dying”.
The historian did acknowledge that Cave Hill’s enrollment, staff, and budget demands had expanded over the last 10 years, but he defended this outcome and said they had reduced their dependence on operational funding from Government.
He was the main presenter this morning when the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados held its 19th annual conference at Hilton Barbados.
“Ten years ago the Government of Barbados’ contribution to the campus operational costs was about 92 per cent; today it is 61 per cent …, which tells you therefore that the campus had to have been looking for monies and revenues to fund itself,” he said.
Sir Hilary said there were individuals who would wonder “if the arrears owed to the university by the government of Barbados have exceeded $150 million how does the university survive in this mess?”.
His answer to this question was: “It survives largely because we have friends in the private sector who are generous, … but also because we have become an entrepreneurial university in and of ourselves.”
“The university has had to become entrepreneurial to generate funds to expand and to sustain itself in this recession… Even though we are bleeding we are not dying, we are not on life support,” he added.
The academic also said it was a scientifically false argument to argue that a Barbadian “$9 billion economy” could not afford to support the current 7,000 Barbadian students attending the University of the West Indies.
He also said most of the funding Government provided to the Cave Hill campus was used to pay staff.
“So the student enrollment has quadrupled and the budget has also increased by 300 per cent, so those curves have gone up in the same direction,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the university moved from employing 140 people to now employing 750 people, so we are now one of the largest employers of labour, and of multiple skills of labour on the island.
“Seventy five per cent of Cave Hill’s costs is wages and salaries. When the governments gives Cave Hill its contribution for the educational system that money comes in and goes right back out in wages and salaries because we have to pay for all the research, the professors, the different staff, the pensions, it’s a high cost institution,” Sir Hilary stated. (SC)
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