UWI must be properly funded

Sir Hilary Beckles
Sir Hilary Beckles

Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, has charged that Barbados has the lowest level of enrolment of university students between the ages of 18-30 in the Western Hemisphere.

Sir Hilary made this observation Wednesday night 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, St. Michael.

Arguing that a skilled population contributes to national development, the educator said that capital usually followed ideas. Sir Hilary suggested that the sluggish response to the recession in the English-speaking Caribbean could be attributed to the dearth of skilled personnel in specific areas.

He noted that in response to the needs of a service economy, the Cave Hill Campus had placed heavy emphasis on the social sciences. The principal however argued that in a changing work environment the emphasis was now being placed on science and technology.

Sir Hilary pointed out that under the Student Entrepreneurial and Empowerment Development programme, students were encouraged to be innovative while they were on campus.†He repeated his position that university education was never cheap, therefore its programmes must be adequately funded.

Sir Hilary, who has travelled extensively on the African continent, told his audience which included Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, that several countries in West Africa had entered the status of “failed states” because of under-financed tertiary institutions. †

He noted that several West African scientists have migrated to the US and Europe because the science and technology faculties in their countries had been closed.

Stressing the importance of universities in the development of a nation, Sir Hilary said: “A shortage of skills impact on a nation’s development. A university is an investment. It is a foreign exchange earner and it is one of the engines of growth in a community.

“The educator pointed out that in an attempt to maintain its viability, the administration had cut costs at Cave Hill and placed a cap on the number of students enrolled in the social science faculty.

He recalled that with the introduction of the cap, about 60 per cent of the applicants were denied entry into the faculty of social sciences.

“August was the most horrendous time for the administration at the Cave Hill Campus. It was a major social and economic problem. It was also a moral problem to hear the stories of parents who had done everything to have their children qualified for entry only to be told that a cap had been placed on the number of students entering the faculty,” Sir Hilary said.

The senior education administrator recalled that eminent jurist, Sir Roy Marshall, had warned in his findings that if the university was under-funded it would not serve its purpose of regional development. He noted that Sir Alister McIntyre had come to the same conclusion and suggested that the university should be properly financed and expanded to serve the region.†(NC)

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