Sir Hilary Beckles
Sir Hilary Beckles

Government should only have to pick up the tab for 80 per cent of each Barbadian’s education at the University of the West Indies.

And last night, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, offered some guidelines on how such an approach might be achieved.

He suggested that the private sector, the chief beneficiaries of the skills acquired there, should contribute 15 per cent, and the students five per cent with an increase in the amenities fees to $1,400 per annum in an attempt to turn around the economic fortunes of that institution.

Sir Hilary offered the formula while speaking on the topic: “Cave Hill at the Cross Roads: The Crisis of Higher Education in National Development” at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill, as the island celebrates 50 years of Free Education.

The principal told his audience that the Government’s indebtedness to the university had risen from $20 million in 2007 to $200 million in 2012. Sir Hilary noted that the student intake had risen from under 4,000 in 2000 to approximately 9,000 in 2012.

Acknowledging that university education was never cheap, Sir Hilary pleaded with Government to honour its commitment even if it was done in installments.

The principal recalled that after plans were drawn up for the construction of a new library at the campus, the Government gave the university $15 million to execute the project but later asked them to use the funds to pay wages and salaries.

Noting that universities all over the world had expressed an interest in sending students to the campus, Sir Hilary said that the administration had drawn up plans to build the Sir Keith Hunte Building, which was to be made up of four blocks costing $25 million on the 33 acres of land given to the campus by the Owen Arthur Administration.

The principal charged that a request that the government act as guarantor was turned down even though they had given the administration the assurance that they would be responsible for the repayment of the loan.

Sir Hilary however told his audience that so far one of the blocks had been completed. He pointed out that if the loan had been guaranteed the project could have injected valuable foreign exchange into the island’s economy.

He recalled that it was the vision of the Right Excellent Errol Barrow that Cave Hill became a university town generating business.

During the current general elections campaign, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur stated that the Cave Hill Campus was generating more foreign exchange for the island’s Treasury than the upmarket Sandy Lane Hotel.†(NC)††

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