Barbados re-assure free university education for nationals

Barbados re-assure free university education for nationals

CMC

Monday, September 10, 2012

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Barbados government has given an assurance that university education would remain free to nationals even as it noted a significant increase in financial contributions to the University of the West Indies (UWI) in recent years.

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Chris Sinckler, addressing supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Sunday night, said that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will meet with UWI officials to discuss outstanding arrears, estimated at more than 100 million dollars (One Barbados Dollar = US.50 cents) owed to the university with campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sinckler said that Stuart administration would meet “every possible commitment” to the nationals attending the UWI, adding “there is no person or institution or political party in this country that can challenge or contradict the absolute commitment of the Democratic Labour Party to public education in this country”.

But he made it clear that some changes would have to be made and taxpayers have a responsibility to ensure that “every single cent is spent right and properly”.

Sinckler said that UWI budget accounts for almost half of the national programme budget of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, which is more than the funds spent on all the other establishments within the educational system here.
The Finance Minister said that between 1999 and 2003, the government spent an average BDS$55 million on meeting its obligations to UWI, a figure he said that has increased to BDS$127 million between 2010 and 2011.

Sinckler also accused past administrations of putting the bulk of the education budget into the Cave Hill campus of the UWI, while Trinidad and Tobago had been putting funds in primary, secondary and immediate post-secondary establishments.

“They were building infrastructure, building capacity,” he said, adding “10, 15 years down the road now the script has flipped a bit. They are now spending a lot more money on university education because they know that the people coming through the system are properly prepared to go into the university matriculating at the correct level, and able to get out of the university, because they can handle the work.

“Put yourself in the situation in which Barbados is now on the front end of the world’s greatest recession, understand what we are dealing with. When you hear people talking about the Government owing the university BDS$150 million in arrears, understand that this massive expansion in the university population, when it should have been slowing down because of the recession... it was actually going up. 

“When you add the tuition, which is another BDS$30 or BDS$40 million, we are talking about BDS$170 million-odd for the University of the West Indies, every year, for one year,” he added.

Sinckler said that for the nine years prior to 2007, Barbados gave the UWI a total of BDS$543 million and is now being asked to meet that same target in three-and-a-half years.

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