Nearly 1,800 gone
Guild president reports loss in student enrollment over bursary process
Cabinet’s approval last week of $3 million to fund 3,000 bursaries for University of the West Indies (UWI) students for the 2014/2015 academic year has been simply “too late” in coming, says student spokesman Damani Parris.
The president of the UWI Guild of Students at the Cave Hill campus told reporters at a media conference today that many students, who had been banking on the promised financial assistance since last September, had been forced to leave the Cave Hill campus empty handed.
“The University simply indicated to [students] that because Government has not made any indication of the bursaries that they simply have to make the payments themselves or not be registered as students,” said Parris, who quoted figures from the UWI student registry to show that there had been a significant fall off in student enrollment by over 1,600 students.
The Guild President reported there were currently 5,022 students enrolled at the institution, compared to 9,000 the previous year, with the total number of Barbadian students at the Cave Hill Campus now below 60 per cent.
However, he believes the effect of the late bursary payments has primarily affected this year’s student enrollment, which has fallen by 1,778 from 6,800 students last September.
“Of course this was very concerning for us as the Guild of Students and hence we drafted a letter asking for the Prime Minister’s urgent attention,” he said.
The approvals were announced last Friday after the Minister of Education Ronald Jones announced since last July that with Government no longer paying the tuition costs for Barbadian students attending the UWI, it would be providing about 3,000 bursaries to assist those who could not afford to pay.
However, the outgoing president who has six weeks left in office, said while the Guild was “extremely grateful” for Cabinet’s decision to provide the bursaries, which were promised seven months ago, “we have to indicate that it is a decision that may have been too late”.
“In a realistic situation, we do not know how helpful those bursaries can be at this point,” he added.
Describing the recent process as “untidy and messy”, the Guild President therefore called on Government to ensure that if bursaries are offered to students in the future, that they are issued “in an appropriate time” to avoid what he described as a situation where the student body “would be again traumatized by the action of the processing time of Government”.
“To my mind there has to be substantial negotiation where the Government of Barbados and the University of the West Indies try to ensure that there is a process in place for the provision of bursaries.
“So that even if the money does not arrive on the day that registration takes place, that the process itself has been ironed out to avoid the situation where essentially students [are] registered when money is paid on their behalf by the Government of Barbados and then they have to wait until next year to come back [to complete their studies].
“All of this is very untidy and messy as a system and it simply has to be solved,” he said.