Classes in the Faculty of Humanities of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies have been put on hold for at least a week, amid reports that the number of students entering the faculty has seen a sharp decline.
The move comes even as the Minister of Education Ronald Jones dismissed as “foolish noise” comments that Government’s new policy of requiring students to pay tuition fees had led to a major dip in UWI enrollment numbers.
An email has been circulated to students accepted for and continuing in the faculty, informing them that the university needs time this week to carry out some “internal reorganization”.
No details about the nature of that reorganization were forthcoming. However, Barbados TODAY understands that the university is in the process of accepting late registration, with hopes of seeing an increase in numbers for courses offered by the Faculty of Humanities.
However, sources said even with late registration they did not see the numbers increasing by much.
Classes for new students in other faculties started this week but the humanities students are expected to begin next Monday at the earliest, according to the university communication.
Official figures obtained by Barbados TODAY showed that only 90 students were accepted for the faculty this school year, compared to 219 last year and 193 in 2012.
Over the weekend, Minister of Education Ronald Jones was highly critical of people he said seemed bent on creating confusion by speculating about how many students would be continuing or starting their studies at the UWI.
Addressing an awards ceremony for the Young Democrats Educational Grant Programme, he said: “This is the first time I’ve seen so many hungry people beating at the door of the University of the West Indies [asking], ‘wait them got three people in there, or them ain’t got none? Tell me, let me create confusion in the place’. That’s what they do and I ain’t going to apologize for saying that.”
In an apparent reference to recent media reports, which have quoted campus sources as indicating a drastic decline in student enrolment for the 2014/2015 academic year as a result of the Government’s new policy, the Minister of Education appealed specifically to members of the media to “let the place live and settle down”.
“Let the place settle down!” he insisted, complaining that “every day, for the past three or four weeks, they have been calling the University of the West Indies [inquiring about], ‘how much you got in Social Sciences? You got four people in Humanities?’, all kinds of foolishness!”
“Let the university go through its systems, finish the registration process. Let the Student Revolving Loan Fund do what it has to do, let us work it through, work it out. Let the university come up with models and help its students go through the system,” the minister added.
Jones said while the Government would have liked to maintain 100 per cent coverage for students, a new financing strategy had become critical when its tuition payments ballooned to more than $200 million annually.
He said if the Freundel Stuart administration had continued to pay tuition fees for all students, other educational and health institutions would have suffered.
“The hospital would have closed; [the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic] would have been on its last legs; we would have had to cut the [Barbados Community College] by 50 per cent,” he said.
“These are the realities.”