It is a massive loss for Hurricane Maria battered Caribbean Community neighbour, Dominica, but a $100 million gain for Barbados.
The American offshore medical school, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), is moving its operations here after 40 years as one of Dominca’s major foreign exchange earners.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley told a news conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) this afternoon that the school will begin classes here on January 5 next year, giving a much-needed boost to the struggling economy and the worryingly low foreign exchange reserves.
“The economic activity that we expect Ross to spin as a result of their presence here is likely to be in the vicinity of over $100 million, one per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] and we believe that this is the kind of direction, the kind of investment, the kind of partnership that we in Barbados want to bring,” Mottley said.
“This is the type of investment that is very important to the advancement of the Barbadian economy, and which will also add immeasurably to our diversity,” she added.
According to the Prime Minister, the medical university, to be housed in facilities at LESC that were originally earmarked for a number of Government departments, will attract some 1,500 students, 100 faculty and another 200 administrative support staff.
She said 91,000 square feet of space would be made available to the university after her Cabinet decided that it would be much more profitable for the country to accommodate the learning institution than to have Government offices there.
In addition, Mottley said, her administration would work with Villages at Coverley developer Mark Maloney – who was often the target of her attacks during the general election campaign – to secure housing for the students.
“I believe that [there are] some 400 houses that are partially built to be completed over the course of the next six months, because, as you would appreciate, relocating a school of this size requires a number of moving parts to come together,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the homes at the Coverley, Christ Church site would be a “perfect fit” for the university.
However, Mottley said, even those homes would be inadequate, which means “Barbadians will get to benefit as well from the provisioning of housing to the rest of the faculty and to the other students that can’t be accommodated at Coverley”.
The medical school was founded in 1978 as the University of Dominica School of Medicine by American entrepreneur Robert Ross, with an inaugural class of just 11 students. The name was formally changed in 1982 at the request of the government, to Ross University School of Medicine, and in 2003 it was acquired by DeVry Education Group,which later changed its name to Adtalem Global Education.
Although the campus suffered moderate damage when the category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica last September, the overall impact of the storm affected the school, forcing it first to announce in October last year that classes for the fall semester would resume mid-October aboard an Italian ferry that would be docked off the coast of St Kitts.
A month later the school said it would temporarily relocate to Knoxville, Tennessee in the United States.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Adtalem Global Education Lisa Wardell told today’s news conference the decision to pull out of Dominica was taken with a heavy heart.
However, she said it was her responsibility to position her organization for the future, “and Barbados is the future”.
“We are pleased to partner with Prime Minister Mia Mottley to establish the RUSM campus. The Barbados Government has been a very collaborative partner during a pivotal time in RUSM’s history, and we are confident Barbados will be a positive and productive learning environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Wardell said.
“The decision to relocate RUSM from Dominica was complex and one we approached with great deliberation. After careful consideration of multiple options, including a review of our academic and infrastructure requirements and future plans for RUSM, we believe the move is in the long-term best interest of our RUSM community.”
Wardell also said the current partnership with Barbados was expected to expand beyond the Ross University School of Medicine, considering that Adtalem operated the University of the Caribbean in St Marten and the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St Kitts, Chamberlin University, a college of nursing and a college of home professions and 12 different educational institutions in Brazil, that include nursing, technology and business.