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Future of University of the West Indies in doubt in “damning” report

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Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021. 7:47 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Regional university the University of the West Indies (UWI) is said to need restructuring across its segments to reduce operating costs and increase revenues to avoid financial exigency, according to a “damning” report done by the UWI’s Chancellor’s Commission of Governance and tabled in Jamaica’s House of Representatives last week as reported by the Jamaica Observer.

Education Minister Fayval Williams sought the attention of fellow parliamentarians to discuss the future of the University, whose main campus is located in Mona outside Kingston. “Among the concerns and the issues to be ventilated via a parliamentary debate are: governance of the university; leadership; strategic planning; the state of the institution’s finances; and the impact on students, staff and the stakeholders,” Williams stated.

The report noted that the university’s current financing model, in which economic costs are shared between regional governments (80 percent) and students (20 percent) is not sustainable, “primarily due to the ongoing fiscal challenges being faced by each State, “coupled with rising operating expenses resulting in increasing operational deficits”. It said the trends suggest the need for a combination of institutional re-engineering, substantive program adjustments, and a structured cash conservation program.

The report writers’ observations include that the University is operating at a deficit, related to the effectiveness of its operations and financial management; that these two critical components need to be addressed, holistically, to ensure that The UWI can survive to deliver on its mandate of providing tertiary education to the people of the region; and that there was no framework to ensure accountability and performance of staff members who are officers of the university under statutes.

Among the recommendations of the commission is for the establishment of an executive committee on each of the five campuses (Mona; Saint Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; Cave Hill, Barbados; Five Islands, Antigua and Barbuda; and the Open Campus), with delegated authority, to ensure that the council’s decisions on the strategic direction and goals of the institution are measured by the performance and the achievements of its goals against key performance indicators and metrics approved by the council.

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