Governments in the region will now only contribute 50 per cent of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) operational costs.
But even as the university moves to generate more of the revenue it needs to maintain its operations, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles assured there was no intention to increase tuition fees.
Sir Hilary made the announcement Thursday, saying that the days of governments being responsible for 80 per cent of operational costs were at an end. He said the change was part of plans to transform the UWI into a hybrid university with greater financial efficiency over the course of the next five years.
Speaking during a Zoom press conference, Sir Hilary said the adjustment is one of the two fundamental changes being implemented at the UWI, coming out of the university’s Executive Management Retreat held on Wednesday.
“We have come to the end of what has been described as three decades of deficit funding within the university environment…. We have now decided to shift from a tradition decades old of deficit financing into a balanced budget approach. We will now seek to have the governments and the university counsellor approve our budgets and we will function within the parameters of those budgets,” said Sir Hilary, who noted that while it took around US$300 million to finance the UWI annually, there was an annual shortfall of between US$30 million and US$40 million.
“So, long as our investors, our governments especially, remain true to the budgets and what they approve is what they invest, then we are going to be addressing the systemic deficit within our system in that way.”
Sir Hilary said the second major change would be the development of an entrepreneurial dimension to the UWI, with a “very aggressive commercial and self-financing approach”.
“The reason why this is so important is because on the one hand we are a public university, we are a public developmental instrument of the people of the Caribbean, we are not driven by the profit motive, we are not a business enterprise, but we must be managed and we must conduct our affairs in a business-like fashion.
“However, we have now realized that in pursuit of self-financing, self-sustaining activities, that we must have a robust and aggressive business dimension, a commercial dimension, because the university now has to enter into a stakeholder network as an enterprise of business. So, developing the business aspect of the university will in fact create what is now going to be a hybrid university and this is a fundamental transition at this moment,” the Vice-Chancellor acknowledged.
Sir Hilary said each campus would be given the responsibility, under the guidance of its principal, to implement commercially viable projects and initiatives.
But even as the UWI transitions into becoming more financially secure, Sir Hilary maintained there were no plans to raise tuition fees.
However, he admitted that the university would review the pricing of programmes offered.
“At the moment, our students are required to pay 20 per cent of the costs of their academic programmes. The tuition fees at the UWI at the moment amount to about 15 per cent of the university’s cash income. We do not intend to pursue a policy of increasing fees within the context of this pandemic and the challenges. However, what we do have to do is to look at how we price individual programmes, how we price programmes across faculties, how we price programmes across disciplines.
“We do hope that by looking at the area of academic product pricing that we could bring that contribution to the budget from around 15 per cent to maybe 20 per cent. So, we’re not hoping to do so in the context of fee increases, I want to make that perfectly clear, but we will look at the issue of how we cost our programmes,” Sir Hilary said.