A public relations exercise!
That’s how Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss has described a recent study done by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies which shows that the campus contributes more to the economy of Barbados in terms of direct foreign exchange than sugar and rum exports. In a sharp rebuke of the UWI study, Inniss said “it makes no sense UWI going out there on a public relations campaign, to try to justify in the minds of Barbadians, the need for the Government to give them high levels of subsidies and to pay for university education for all Barbadians”.
“In truth and in fact, the economists who work at the UWI, ought to be able to advise the principal that the method of financing university education, that existed from the 1960s, is no longer sustainable,” the Minister added.
He further suggested that the Campus really needed “to put aside the charade and PR and deal with the substantive issues”.
He also questioned how the report and its findings were compiled, contending that the Government’s investment in education far exceeds its contribution to the rum sector and therefore it was a mistake to compare the two.
”Whatever study UWI produces, the reality about it, is that this government or any future government, whether it’s the DLP or BLP, cannot pay for the university education in full for all Barbadians.
“That is a simple harsh reality we all have to face,” the outspoken Minister said, also calling on the University to operate as a business and not as a school.
He went even further to accuse the UWI of “seeking to find ways to embarrass the government, [by] reflecting constantly on what it is owed by government and what government is not subsidising”.
However, he said the UWI needed to be “jolted out” of its comfort zone and to seriously start to see itself as a large business.
Earlier today, the Minister of Education Ronald Jones also weighed on the study entitled The Impact of the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus on the Economy of Barbados.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Jones dismissed the comparison with the rum and sugar sectors as irrelevant.
“ . . .I don’t know about comparing rum. I look strictly at the provision of education for Barbadians and Caribbean students. And how that is accessed; the ability of them to access it; how many students access it; what we have to do to more regionalise and internationalise the University of the West Indies so that in fact more foreign exchange comes into the economy as a result of the expansion to cater to international students. That has to be the basis.
“The debate can’t be about rum only brings in $30 or $40 million, the university brings in $35 or $80 [million],” Jones said.
He also stressed that instead of persons trying to compare apples with oranges, they should focus on the real issue of educational services and exploring how they could become a greater net earner of foreign exchange.
Furthermore he said there was a role for the University of the West Indies, as well as for the rum and agricultural sectors.
Elaborating on the importance of the expansion of educational services, Jones said that was the rationale for his Government allowing an offshore educational institution to be developed in the island.
Additionally, he said it was also for this reason that there were now private schools in Barbados catering to foreign young people coming here specifically to be educated.
“The debate has to be about how we can support education, how education benefits the development of our marginalised societies and of our people– that has to be the debate. I am not interested in ‘sugar cane is on its way out, so rum on the way out too’. I am not interested in that kind of debate.
“The issue has to be how can the University of the West Indies, particularly in Barbados, helps the OECS [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States] to move its numbers from about 13 per cent of the population being exposed to tertiary education, to Barbados’ numbers which are about 40 per cent.
“It is about how can Barbados move its numbers from 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the available cohort to give them that educational edge to push the development agenda enterprise,” the former educator added. The UWI survey stated that in 2013 the campus generated almost $87 million in foreign exchange while sugar earned about $16 million and rum approximately $86 million.