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Charles: Gov't considering extra $4b funding for UWI

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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The Government is considering a further $4-billion contribution to the University of the West Indies (UWI), to assist the leading regional tertiary institution meet its expenses.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC) Pearnel Charles Jr informed the Senate on Friday of the development, as he responded to questions from Opposition senators accusing the Government of reducing financial support for the institution.

In response to a number of questions which had been tabled by Opposition member, Senator Floyd Morris, Charles admitted that, while in the 1990s a system had been in effect requiring regional governments to meet 80 per cent of the cost of operating the university and students the other 20 per cent; Jamaica made a change from that model in 2009/10.

He noted that the changed system reflected the reorganisation of financing higher education in Jamaica, and the new model was developed through which a block grant was introduced with an initial contribution of $6.9 billion in 2009/10, which rose to $8.7 billion in 2019/20.

But, he noted that although the shift in financing policy crossed three successive administrations since then, including both political parties, no definitive policy document emerged and neither administration attempted to regularise the situation while, in the meantime, the UWI has continued to consider the shortfall in contributions as an outstanding amount.

But Senator Charles said that Jamaica could not have owed any funds to the university, as it has not been bonded by a continuing obligation since 2009/10.

“There is a recognised amount which the university has identified, and which would have been the amount they would have estimated to receive over the period under the previous 80/20 ration; and so that amount is what the UWI might have identified as a shortfall,” he explained.

In response to a number of follow-up questions from Morris and his colleague on the Opposition benches, Senator Wensworth Skeffery, as to whether the Government had not considered the reduced funding contrary to the need for increased access to tertiary education, Charles pointed out that the situation had been allowed to continue throughout the tenure of the previous Government, during which Senator Skeffery was at the Ministry of Education.

“What we need to do, and the UWI has asked, is that we have to evaluate the circumstances, to see if we can come to some agreement on the outstanding amount,” he said.

He added that the Government is evaluating the current circumstances, to see how it can provide as much support as possible based on what is agreeable to the Government in terms of allocations.

“We do have to come to some determination as to how we take into consideration the realities,” he said, noting that there are already a number of areas through which the Government is providing additional support for the UWI, including a $200 million per year subsidy for needy students, as well as an additional scholarship programme which costs $400 million.

“And in addition to the $8.7 billion, there is now a submission being drafted to submit to the Cabinet for an additional $4 billion, which will assist the university in meeting its expenses,” he informed the Senate.


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