Former independent senator, Francis Chandler, is not opposed to students (with the exception of those in dire need) being asked to contribute towards their university education.
She expressed this view in response to Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler’s announcement that Barbadian students attending the University of the West Indies will from next year have to cover their tuition fees, while Government will continue to pick up the larger economic cost.
“Under the present circumstances, I can see that the Government can no longer afford to foot the entire bill. This has, I think, been partially caused by the considerable increase in students in recent years, possibly driven by the call for one graduate in every household. I have said before, I do not agree with this policy but rather one which calls for one well trained person in each household, since if we continue on this path we may have a multitude of jobless graduates and a lack of artisanal skills,” Chandler argued.
Chandler added that the courses of study need to fit the needs of the nation and the numbers of places offered in each course should be limited to those needs.
“This could result in a better quality graduate with a better chance of securing work, although of course, it can be argued that ICT allows graduates, even if based in Barbados, to work around the globe,” Chandler argued.
She pointed out that some may say that those who went before and benefited from free university education were kicking down the ladder, but she recalled that many of them had to pay for services which were free today.
Looking at the economic cost which Government will continue to underwrite, Chandler argued: “I think that the economic cost of the students which Government is continuing to pay needs to be looked at in detail. Is this cost as low as it could be? Are these funds being used as efficiently as they could be or is there some fat in there that could be trimmed?”
She argued that Government and the private sector could consider awarding more scholarships to students who performed well during their initial year, thus giving them motivation to achieve high standards.
Stressing that the university should address the problems confronting the country, Chandler said: “Research at the university needs to be aimed at solving the problems being experienced by Barbados, and the public needs to be kept up to date with the progress being made on a regular basis rather than at spasmodic open days.”
She welcomed the news that the UWI was attracting increasing numbers of extra-regional students who would pay higher fees which should offset some of the financial responsibilities of Government and improve the country’s foreign exchange position. (NC)