If Sir Hilary Beckles has his way, hotels, restaurants, boutiques and other businesses will throw open their doors at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus.
The principal and pro-vice chancellor today issued an open invitation to the private sector to come and invest in the institution and set up a wide range of businesses there.
“This is an opportunity for institutions to intervene in this distressed environment of young people having ambitions for the future. You can bring your products and get involved. The university is open for business. We need to convert the university into an aggressive commercial space,” he told a room of officials from a range of sectors and industries at a Private Sector Breakfast Forum at the 3Ws Oval.
“If you want to open a hotel on the campus, come and open a hotel on the campus. If you want to open a cafeteria on the campus, a restaurant; if you want to open a boutique, a pharmacy, whatever you want to do, the university is open because there are 10,000 people here every single day.
“This space is a market. Whatever investments you think you can make, we are open for business. You can come here we have the space . . . it is available to you,” added Sir Hilary as he addressed the event which was put on by the Department of Management Studies, under the theme Enhancing Competitiveness, Creativity, Innovation And Productivity.
Sir Hilary also called on financial institutions to fill the void created due to an increase in tuition fees payable by students. He noted that there were 60,000 students across the region who were “insecure about the future of their education” because they were not in a position to pay the increased fees – 40,000 of those students were across UWI campuses in the region and 20,000, said Sir Hilary, were scattered across other institutions.
The university principal said it was now the perfect time for financial institutions to step in.
“Clearly there is a tremendous opportunity for the private sector to look at that reality collectively and say there is a market. There is a tremendous opportunity to develop products and concepts to intervene, support that next generation and build brand loyalty,” he said.
The senior educator said while the campus population was in favour of the principle of student participation in paying fees, they wanted to do it “in a fashion that is affordable at this moment”. A recent study of undergraduate students at the Cave Hill Campus found that students were willing to continue pursuing their studies once they were provided some ease in tuition fee payments, through the availability of affordable payment plans or loan arrangements.
Students who took part in the survey conducted by lecturer in the Department of Management Studies, Dr Dwayne Devonish, suggested that a UWI student loan package be offered.