Thu | Feb 2, 2023

UWI, St Augustine warns of tuition hike

Published:Wednesday | March 16, 2022 | 12:11 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Hinting at a rise in fees, The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine Campus will be revitalising its funding model to significantly reduce its dependence on government subvention.

Professor Brian Copeland, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of the Trinidad campus, said he envisions a culture shift where students take responsibility for their tuition.

The cost of education for some students, according to Copeland, has not changed over the last two decades.

“We understand the challenges that governments have and we realise that UWI has been around for over 70 years and it’s time to grow up. It’s time to face the music,” the principal said during a virtual campus council meeting reviewing the 2020-2021 academic year.

“The billing should go to the student, not to the Government. This is the norm everywhere else.”

UWI’s current cost-sharing model is 80:20, with students paying tuition fees equivalent to 20 per cent of the cost of academic programmes.

But students at the St Augustine Campus only bear 12 per cent of the economic costs of their education.

Additionally, students who benefit from the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses pay half of the required 12 per cent.

Copeland said the Faculty of Medical Sciences is facing high receivables as the 2009 billing arrangements are no longer working and fees have not changed since then.

“For any institution to sit with fees remaining the same for 21 years, something has to be wrong. We have to address it,” he said.

“ … We looked at it several times in the past and we’ve done a detailed costing model of our operations. When that is done, then we will make it known to the public.”

The principal added that the campus has always made provisions, through a hardship grant, for students who are challenged with meeting their financial commitments to the university.

Emphasising that the university would not take draconian action, Copeland said that St Augustine would aggressively look to expand current support systems for students, including tuition reductions.

As a revenue-generating measure, the campus will be engaging in three projects: the UWI Global School of Medicine at Debe/Penal South Campus; the UWI Fine Cocoa Products Ltd; and the Alumni Engagement Project.

St Augustine will also participate in the UWI Global Campus aimed at extending the university’s online programmes and courses to global markets in order to enhance institutional growth and generate revenue, as well as develop the Orange Grove Solar Park, spanning 148 acres.

Copeland said the university launched two new undergraduate programmes - a BSc in disaster risk resilience for agriculture and a BSc in midwifery.

Four postgraduate programmes were also added to the campus’ offerings - anatomical pathology, haematology and blood banking, food security and renewable energy technology.

Among the achievements of the campus in the 2020-2021 financial year was a million-dollar bid won by the law faculty for a European Union project on pensioners on remand.

In 2021, St Augustine’s graduation numbers rebounded by 27 per cent to 3,926, after dipping to just over 3,000 in the previous year.

In his remarks, Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles commended the campus for reducing its expenditure by 19 per cent, surpassing the UWI’s goal of 10 per cent.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com