Student enrolment at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) fell sharply by about 30 per cent at the end of the 2014/2015 academic year, after Government introduced tuition fees for Barbadians attending the university.
Campus Principal Professor Eudene Barriteau today reported that the student population dropped dramatically from close to 9,000 prior to the introduction of tuition fees to 6,065 at present.
She did not give a faculty by faculty breakdown but she told a meeting of the Campus Council that she had asked faculty deans and heads of department to set targets to increase enrolment.
However, Dean of Social Sciences Dr Justin Robinson said a drastic fall in numbers tested its resilience during the 2014/2015 academic year.
“The Faculty, and the campus as a whole, faced a major reduction in student numbers as Barbadian students, who make up over eight per cent of the students in the faculty, had to find their own tuition fees for the first time,” Dr Robinson said.
The Social Sciences faculty is the largest on campus, accounting for 58.4 per cent of total registrations – 60 per cent of undergraduate and 51 per cent of graduate registrations.
However, Dr Robinson said the Government-imposed fees had a clear impact on enrolment.
“The introduction of tuition fees for Barbadian students and a reduction in demand from the Eastern Caribbean saw a 25 per cent decline in student registration in academic year 2014/2015,” he told the meeting, which was attended by Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, other campus administrators and UWI representatives from across the region.
The UWI economist said available evidence suggested that the introduction of the charges had impacted most heavily on the Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences and the Bachelor of Science in Labour and Employment Relations programmes where enrolment suffered a cataclysmic 74 per cent and 71 per cent drop respectively.
“The evidence also suggests that student attrition was heaviest among mature students and part-time students,” added the UWI faculty leader.
During the year under review, the average age of students in his faculty fell from 33 to 26 years, the share of part-time students dropped from 57 per cent to 39 per cent, while the share of lower-level matriculation students, declined from 57 per cent to 47 per cent.
“One of the immediate challenges for the Faculty was to find ways to support our students in terms of funding their tuition fees. A Faculty Scholarship Fund was set up under the chairmanship of the Dean to craft and coordinate the faculty response,” he pointed out.
Robinson revealed that corporate Barbados, especially the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Ltd, contributed in excess of one million dollars to the scholarship fund over the academic year
He was also grateful that the City of Bridgetown Credit Union Ltd., the Royal Bank of Canada and Courts Barbados had chipped in with a total of $120,000.
“We are also pleased to report that over 75 per cent of academic staff have signed up to provide a part of their book grant to assist needy students. The efforts of the Faculty Scholarship Fund are on-going and we are committed to sourcing funding to assist our students in funding their UWI Cave Hill education,” said the Dean of Social Sciences.
Earlier, in her report, Barriteau noted that last year, over 1,800 students graduated from the university.
She also mentioned that the campus welcomed 11 Barbados Scholarship and Exhibition winners who chose to study there as their first choice. Professor Barriteau revealed that those applications had gone up compared to last year. [email protected].