Time to clear UWI debts
VICE CHANCELLOR of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor E. Nigel Harris wants Caribbean governments to work out arrangements for clearing arrears of more than $200 million to the institution.
He said that while governments might not be able to wipe out the debt in a short period because of the difficult economic circumstances, they should at least work out some arrangements to pay so as to ensure the “enterprise” remained “a robust one”.
He told a recent meeting of the Open Campus’ Council at Accra Beach Hotel & Spa that against the backdrop of the economic and financial crisis in the Caribbean, the university faced “a new normal” – the understanding that governments would not expand their support for the institution.
The vice chancellor expressed “extreme” disappointment over the level of support regional governments had been giving the UWI’s Open Campus. This was an apparent reference to a shortfall in governmental funding noted by principal of the campus, Professor Hazel Simmons-McDonald.
The principal told the meeting that at the end of July 2013, there was a government funding shortfall of $44 million.
She reported that governments had handed over just $77.5 million – or 64 per cent of the $121.6 million approved over the period 2009 to 2013.
She noted, too, that some governments had said they would not continue to provide funds for the campus.
Simmons-McDonald pointed out that over the years the campus had been reducing its reliance on funds from the governments, by raising money from various sources, including new programmes and grants from international agencies.
She said that in 2008-09 the campus relied on governments for 63 per cent of its funding but that position had drastically changed with the campus now raising 61 per cent of the finances it needed.