UWI guild offers alternatives to student fees

Students' Guild President Damani Parris
Students’ Guild President Damani Parris

A gradual increase in fees or adoption of the Trinidadian tuition funding model are among recommendations being made by the University of the West Indies’ Guild of Students to the Freundel Stuart Government.

As debate in the country over plans to introduce a tuition fee to students continues, President Damani Parris suggested today there were several options that could have been considered by Government before it took the position it did in this year’s Budget.

“One could have reduced the numbers at the University; a programme of expansion at the sixth form level and the Barbados Community College could have done tremendous work to do that [and] a cap at the University of the West Indies as a temporary measure could have been understood by the majority of the public,” Parris said.

He further suggested “a redesigning of the community education programme would have done wonders especially if it was adopted to be fashioned after the Trinidad GATE [Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses] model which is an impressive [one] to look at because . . . it addresses critical situations like the fact that the government will not pay for pass degrees. One has to simply do better than just pass.

“Yet the Government of Barbados continues to promote an ideology, where though it could address situations of persons coming to university ‘wasting time’, and it has a waste time policy as well which it simply refuses to enforce, yet it complains about the fact that there are university students wasting time when the government passed a policy to prevent it then refused to enforce the policy, then one wonders why the bills at the University are escalating out of control. So we must ask why exactly has this policy not been enforced. Is this against the background of political convenience. These are critical questions,” Parris said in an in-depth Q&A with Barbados TODAY, part one of which is carried on pages 10 & 11.

Part two will continue tomorrow, with other suggestions the Guild has put forward, including a gradual introduction of more financial contributions from students over a period of years; a financial tax or structured contribution to be paid by graduates of UWI, and prioritising areas where the human resources of the country are needed and focusing studies at the tertiary level in that direction.

In the Budget, Minister of Finance Chris Sinkler had said in his delivery in Parliament that effective 2014 Barbadian citizens pursuing studies at campuses of the UWI would be required to pay tuition fees from academic year 2014/2015, while the government would continue to fund economic costs. He had suggested at the time that in so doing, Government was projected to reduce the transfer to UWI by an estimated $42million a year.

Since then the Guild of the Cave Hill Campus has taken up the bat, refusing to accept the proposal, starting a petition and even marching through the City last week in addition to publicly speaking out against the 2014 introduction of fees.

Parris said he believed a wider examination of the reasons for the increase in government’s contributions to the university should have been given, particularly in light of the expansion at the University. While he stated he did not blame the student body of any particular faculty for the increase, he questioned if Government had not known that increased faculties would mean more students and hence greater contributions by government; and if Government had signed off on the expansion, why was it that the students nor the university knew that it would not be able to support that increase.

This and other questions, he said, needed to be answered before any decision across the board to make students pay the 20 per cent of their tuition fees. (LB)

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