Retired educator suggests students pay bigger portion of UWI fees
A former principal is proposing radical reforms in the financing of university education that would see students, rather than Government, carrying far more of the financial burden.
Senator Alwin Adams, who once headed the Coleridge and Parry Secondary School, has also called for the setting up of a new entity, with parliamentary oversight, to oversee loans for university students in particular.
Although a Student Loan Scheme already exists, Adams told Barbados TODAY that a separate body, independent of Government, should be established to provide funding for people seeking to further their education at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
“In this scheme the students, having paid upfront, would not have to go cap in hand to people or even the banks to ask for funds to go off to university . . . The students then would have to pay the money back, but they would only do so when they are actually working, and at a reasonable interest rate,” he explained.
Adams’ suggestion comes amid prolonged criticism of Government’s handling of funding for tertiary education, and its failure to provide 3,000 promised bursaries to assist students.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who had announced the bursaries, has remained silent on the delay.
Adams suggested that Government has fallen short on its promised consultations.
The Independent Senator recalled that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had announced, prior to Government’s decision to stop paying tuition fees for UWI students, that the administration would hold a national discourse on the funding of university education.
While that did not materialize, Adams told Barbados TODAY there was still time for it to happen.
“There’s always time for input. My suggestion in relation to the students’ loan council, or whatever it would be called, would be apt here because it should really come out of independent discussions,” he said.
“When it is set up, I believe that while ultimately it would be answerable to Parliament – maybe a committee of Parliament should be set up that they should report to – it should be run by independent professionals, perhaps with a director, a certified accountant and staff and should be able to monitor the progress or lack therefore of what is going in the university.”
Adams pointed out that prior to having students pay full university fees in the United Kingdom, some 240 public meetings were held, with close to 300 written contributions. That process took close to 18 months before a report was submitted.
The senator said the idea of establishing such a committee was not novel, as it had been put forward by a UWI advisory team in 1995.
“It should also be able to act as a watchdog. The students, who will be most disadvantaged by the introduction of fees, would almost be guaranteed not to be adversely affected,” Adams contended.
“I also believe that the notion of having a new model for funding should, in fact, put the university on a better financial footing than it presently is in. Therefore, the agency would probably look to see not only how the portion is going to come from Government, but encourage and suggest some sort of incentive for financial institutions and banks to contribute to the fund, as well as business people and past students of the university and philanthropists and so on.”