After five years of steadily decreasing student numbers, student enrollment at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill Campus has edged back up with an extra 500 undergraduates.
The rise is due to Government’s reintroduction of free tuition for Barbadian undergraduate students, said Principal of the Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau.
Final enrollment numbers are up by ten per cent for the academic year, she told Barbados TODAY following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of the West Indies and the University of Ghana at the campus’ main conference room.
“Compared to last year, our numbers have gone up by ten per cent. We have nearly 500 more students than we had last year. Since the tuition fees were introduced in 2014, every year since then we had a decrease in the numbers, with the first drop-off being the sharpest,” the principal revealed.
Shortly after the May 24 general election, which saw the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) capturing all 30 seats, Prime Minister Mia Mottley reversed the 2013 decision by then Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to end Government’s funding of tuition fees after half-a-century.
Professor Barriteau noted that students who were forced to drop out of UWI because they could not afford tuition are now making up a large percentage of the enrollment for this academic year.
“What we have noticed is that the enrolment numbers included a number of persons who had withdrawn and have now returned. Those were persons who put their education on hold. I hope sometime later in the year or early next year to have a complete analysis of how many of the new students are actually returning,” she explained, adding that she expected the numbers for the next academic year to be even higher.
She suggested that this year’s numbers would have been even higher had it not been for the fact that prospective students only had a few months to apply to the university for this academic year.
“Next year is going to be very interesting because the Prime Minister only first announced it in her throne speech and then the Minister of Education [Santia Bradshaw] mentioned it in Parliament on July 25th this year. So if a person thought up that to June that they could not afford then to learn in July that Government is going to pay, that person has to make recalibration about the campus they want to attend by September,” Professor Barriteau said.
“The window was narrow yet some took advantage of it. So now that they have much more time to prepare it would be interesting to see what would happen between now and the next intake, which is about August. For most students planning to attend UWI takes about nine months yet in that short window we got a ten per cent increase.”
As for postgraduate studies, Professor Barriteau revealed that “teething” troubles regarding how Government would fund these programmes have been worked out, anticipating enrollment for second degrees will also increase soon.
Postgraduate applicants who gain a first class or upper second honours bachelor’s degree can gain free tuition for a research master’s, though students will be required to pay tuition for taught master’s programmes. The Government has also provided a list of other master’s degrees that it will supporting.
“So the teething pain came from the delay in Government printing the priority list but that is all settled now,” Professor Barriteau said.