Noting that access to free education had led to working class Barbadians improving on their social circumstances, St. James North MP Edmund Hinkson last night charged that Government’s decision to introduce tuition fees at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, was taking Barbados back to colonial times.
During his contribution to the debate on the 2013-2014 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals in the House of Assembly, Hinkson questioned the legitimacy of the introduction of the fees. He stressed that the proposal was not contained in the Democratic Labour Party’s general election manifesto. He also noted that during the 2013 general election campaign they did not inform the voting public of their intentions.
“They have no mandate to introduce these fees,” Hinkson suggested.
Hinkson said there were other options available to Government, other than introducing tuition fees, to make the UWI financially viable.
He suggested that the provision of security at the campus could be out-sourced, as well as the campus’ book store, and halls of residence building maintenance. Hinkson urged Government to sit down with the university’s administration and discuss alternative strategies.
Hinkson said it was unfortunate that the same administration that previously criticized the introduction of a university college in Barbados, simply because it was a BLP proposal, was inflicting draconian measures on Barbados when such a college could have ease some of the burden at UWI.
The attorney-at-law said there were a number of courses, such as the Use of English, that were being taught at great expense at the UWI when they should not be taught at the level of a university. He stressed that no remedial or preliminary courses should be taught at the Cave Hill Campus.
Hinkson said the goal of having at least one graduate in every household in Barbados was now impossible with the introduction of tuition fees. Pointing to the Government benches, Hinkson said that with two exceptions on that side, every other member had benefited from free education, had become millionaires, and were now seeking to undermine other citizenry from similar opportunities. He stated that there was data where when tuition fees were introduced in England it resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in university enrollment.
The St. James North representative said that the suggestion by the Government that a loan facility would be available to students was nebulous rhetoric. He noted that such a loan facility would come with conditions and queried what would happen when students could not provide suitable guarantors or collateral up front to access loans.
He said this facility was unlike the Student Revolving Loan Scheme where students had a grace period of a year