Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has hit back at recent comments made by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler which suggested that the expansions undertaken at Cave Hill were unreasonable and could destroy government’s finances if allowed to continue.
On September 9, Minister Sinckler told a St. James South Constituency branch meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party, that unbridled expansion by management of the UWI, and not recalcitrance on the part of the Government, was to blame for the current financial woes of Cave Hill. The Minister had also said that when people talked about the Government owing the university $150 million in arrears, that was because of massive expansion of the UWI population.
He insisted that when it should have been slowing down due to the current recession, and ought not to be happening in this way, it was in fact intensifying. But this morning, when he addressed a ceremony to mark the transfer of land at Dukes Plantation, St. Thomas, to Cave Hill by the Edghill family for the proposed UWI Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship, Sir Hilary dismissed any notion of a random expansion. He said he was concerned with the lack of clarity in national thinking and speaking about the contribution of the university to economic growth and prosperity in Barbados.
“Added to this is my concern with the orchestrated attempt to cast the university in a negative public light by recasting the record that shows it to be a proven and trusted partner in securing economic growth and ensuring prosperity,” declared the principal.
“We have modernised and internationalised,” he added, “the physical plant and curriculum at Cave Hill Campus this past decade on the basis of private sector investment. We have not relied on Government to achieve these targets at the Cave Hill Campus.”
Sir Hilary noted that the vast majority of the 20 or more structures built at Cave Hill in this period, received the blessings of Government, but not the dollars of Government.
“It was never our plan to ask Government for money to put up buildings at Cave Hill, and we have been very pleased that Government did agree to fund a state of the art library at the campus, which will be the 50th anniversary gift to a campus that has done very well by the nation and region,” asserted the campus head.
Sir Hilary, who is also Pro-Vice Chancellor, stated that the expansion of the capacity at Cave Hill was necessary, pointing out that in 2000, it was so chronically constrained, that 65 per cent of Barbadians who qualified to enter, were being rejected.
“Using quality criteria, it was determined that a university that rejected 65 per cent of its citizens because of physical capacity, cannot be called a quality institution,” he submitted.
He also suggested that Cave Hill was not funded to serve the purpose for which it was imagined and built by the late Prime Minister Errol Barow.
“It received no capital in its budget from Government and enrolment was capped by capacity factors. The private sector came to our rescue. Government gave us land, Government gave us some commercial guarantees, but we were on our own to find capital. We found the capital and we responded to the demand but we did not expand in a random fashion,” rebutted the Cave Hill Campus Principal. (EJ)