EDITORIAL: We welcome UWI funding initiative
THE ECONOMIC DIFFICULTIES facingBarbados clearly indicate one thing: no government is likely to be able to spend as in the past. This includes funding tertiary education at the University of the West Indies (UWI), even though higher education remains critical to the future success of this nation.
Yet ways must be found to provide accessfor all those wanting to explore the opportunity to attend the regional university, no longer the sole institution of higher learning in the English-speaking Caribbean. The UWI must now fightfor both financing and students at each campus. In such circumstances it makes no sense simply complaining.
This is why we laud the UWI’s fundraising initiative – Global Giving Week, from August 1-7, that is being launched in Barbados on Friday. This effort to get more alumni, friends and private and public sector donors globally to contribute on a bigger scale is long overdue.
A giving-back initiative by those who have benefited from UWI Cave Hill – and are now reaping success in so many ways – is one approach to ensure the campus can grow. The university needs money to fund student scholarships, labs and equipment, to undertake research and much more if it is to spur economic growth, create new opportunities and expand the middle class locally and across the region.
But the UWI should not expect thatit can simply call its former students andthey will make generous donations. There has been a disconnect between the university and its graduates. As a regional institution established almost 70 years ago – and more than 50 in Barbados – the UWI has been lackadaisical in its alumni affairs and in encouraging beneficiaries to give back to this great public institution.
The ability and commitment of governments to fund expanded tertiary education in the region may have encouraged and created a sense of entitlement. The UWI never stressed the importance of philanthropy amongst its graduates, unlike its North American counterparts.
We are not suggesting that this sort offundraising can ever replace the huge investment Caribbean governments make in tertiary education, but it can be a significant contributor. Donations and endowments can ensure funding of scholarships and at the same time highlight a sense of eternal gratitude and a commitment to excellence at the UWI.
However, the UWI must be cautious notto come across as cold in its outreach to both graduates and the wider community. It should expect to hear from some alumni of their struggle to meet everyday expenses. Also, many graduates, having never been inculcated with that broader sense of social responsibility, may not see any merit inthe appeal and may ask: why should I give back to the UWI?
This is why the leadership of the UWI, past and present, should also play a significant lead role by publicly pledging their donations. It would send a very positive message.