The University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus has come in for scathing criticism from a Government senator, who has charged that the tertiary institution has lost its prestige and is now lagging behind its regional and international counterparts.
While defending the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) 2013 decision to stop footing the full cost of tertiary education for students attending UWI, Senator Verla De Peiza suggested today that the campus had lowered its standards in a misguided attempt to fast track the vision its former principal Sir Hilary Beckles had for a university graduate in every household.
“I will say without fear of contradiction, but with every expectation of contradiction, that the policy of a graduate in every household was misguided as sold.
“That is not to say that you don’t think that there are persons who can reach that standard, but if it is that you had to lower your own standard in order to achieve that, as opposed to raising up people’s standards to get to yours, then you have missed the mark,” said De Peiza, who was delivering this afternoon’s lunchtime lecture at the DLP’s George Street, St Michael headquarters.
It was back in 2009 that Sir Hilary had unveiled the plan to have a graduate in every Barbadian home by 2020. And while describing critics of the concept as “unintelligent”, Sir Hilary had sought to explain that his vision was one way of ensuring the issue of poverty was addressed.
However, De Peiza, who is the DLP candidate for Christ Church West contended that as a result of its botched execution, the UWI now had faced an uphill challenge in regaining respectability, even at the regional level.
“So UWI does have to do some work to get itself back on an international footing and not just that, UWI has to do some work to put itself back on a regional footing,” said De Peiza, while pointing out that while UWI students only needed a passing grade to make it to law school, in England you needed at least Upper Second honours to apply for law school.
“Across the board UWI needs to move from just producing document holders to producing research of a significant nature,” De Peiza added.
The Government senator also suggested that the campus had an insatiable appetite for funding, due to an “explosion” of its physical plant which she said was only partially paid for by private entities, with contributing governments were left to bear the brunt of the financial burden.
“UWI went through an explosion of its physical plant where several buildings were built, plaques were placed on the buildings indicating that there was a donation by a particular institution or company, but because the company could not pay all, the difference had to come from the contributing countries. The bill was certainly getting unmanageable,” De Peiza said.
She added that while UWI Cave Hill was traditionally a very small campus by any international or regional standard and there was need for improvement . . . whether it was required on the scale or at the speed it was developed is now a matter of historical discussion because it is already there”.