The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is now counting its losses after recording a significant drop in the number of new and returning students, and it is already serving notice that the decline could lead to part-time tutors losing their jobs.
With Government’s tuition fee policy now in effect campus Registrar Ken Walters disclosed today that almost 2,500 fewer students have registered for the 2014/2015 academic year, a decline of 28.51 per cent over last year. Those numbers, he said, were similar to the campus’ enrollment almost 10 years ago.
In the undergraduate department, the Faculty of Humanities and Education was the hardest hit, with a 38.04 per cent drop, while in the graduate division, registrations in the Faculty of Medical Sciences fell by more than three-quarters. The two faculties also saw the largest declines in new student registrations – 60.31 per cent and 55.88 per cent respectively.
The drastic declines come as Barbadian students at the Cave Hill Campus are, for the first time, paying tuition fees after the Freundel Stuart adminstration announced last year it would no longer be footing the entire bill for their university education.
Walters told a press conference today that with declines in every single faculty, there would be a financial domino effect, while insisting that the university “remains viable”.
Although telling the media that he could not yet say exactly the impact on the campus’ ability to continue paying staff and running the institution, he acknowledged that some part-time tutors may not be in the classrooms this semester.
“We are still reviewing . . . to see where we are in terms of that effect, but where we have courses which haven’t been fully subscribed, they are being reviewed . . . I think by the end of this semester, we would have a better idea of where we are and therefore we would have to make some decisions in terms of going forward,” he said.
“We contract tutors on a semester basis as we need them and, therefore, if you don’t need them for a particular course, obviously we would not contract them. So if the numbers are not there, obviously you don’t need to have the additional people but the full time staff are still here and therefore they would take up the slack if they need to. But where there is that need to make a determination, we will make those determinations.”
Walters further disclosed that principal Sir Hilary Beckles yesterday directed department heads to meet every week to review the various programmes “to look and see how we can manage this process”.
“Because we cannot leave it to the end of a semester to make a determination . . . We are asking the deans and the heads of the various departments to constantly review what they have to do in terms of courses, programmes, so that we are responding to a particular situation,” he asserted.
Regarding new students, the statistics showed that those fell from 2,240 to 1,468 – a 34.46 per cent decline in the number of people who are entering the Cave Hill Campus to begin degrees.
Walters also expressed particular concern about a drop in the number of registrations from foreign students, cautioning that this state of affairs has been a setback for the UWI’s strategic development plans.
“In total, the overseas registrations were 402 in 2014 versus 464 in 2013, which is a 13 per cent decline for the overseas students,” he disclosed.
“When we look back at our enrollment over the last 15 years or more, we are basically back to the 2005-2006 numbers, to some extent, for the undergraduate level, so we’ve gone back a bit in terms of the movement of the university forward.
“The university would have been driven by the strategic plan which sought to increase its numbers in terms of creating a level of economies of scale for the university, because you basically have to still provide the same infrastructure to some extent if you have 6,000 students or 8,000 students, because they are doing a variety of the programmes within the system.”
The registrar noted, however, that there was a significant increase in post graduate students and an equally high number doing top Master’s programmes not funded by the Government.
He said under that strategy, the university was becoming self-sufficient in financing these courses.
“The university remains a viable university. It is functioning as it normally does . . . We continue to manage our process because we see a 50-year old university as a continuing entity. It is part of the wider University of the West Indies and therefore one campus may struggle from time to time, but as a whole university we support each other in these times of crisis,” Walters said.