The UWI, St Augustine campus Principal Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. –
University of the West Indies, St Augustine principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said the university has experienced an alarming 17.5 per cent drop in enrolment for the 2021/2022 academic year.
This concern has become a front-burner issue for the campus administration, which also noted a reduction of government subventions in 2022.
Even with the successful introduction of a hybrid system, the lowest tuition fees, short courses, and certificate courses, the university reported during its campus council meeting on Tuesday morning, that enrolment in several faculties were low.
Aside from attracting more students, Antoine, during a short presentation on the university’s status on Tuesday, said developing a self-sustainable module is crucial. Antoine presented a slide on the university’s consolidated income, which government contributions dropped from $529,611,000 in 2021, to $485,146,000 in 2022.
Although the 2022 figure represents 52.07 per cent of the university’s income, it reflects an 18.8 per cent reduction. Antoine said the university is now working to make “concrete gains and success.”
She said, “We appreciate they (faculties) were operating in a difficult economic environment and also the fact that there had been adjustments to Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE).
“We did see a slide in our enrolment, a further five per cent, compared to the previous (academic) year (2020/2021). So we are now down to 15,130 students.
“Undergraduate students dropped by four per cent to 10,847 although this was uneven because we saw some faculties, engineering, law, medical sciences and sport having an increase in enrolment. The others declined.”
In June, 2022, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced a cut in funding to the UWI St Augustine campus after rejecting UWI’s proposal for an increase to tuition fees.Imbert’s rationale was that government could not continue making yearly contributions and still cover the GATE allocation to the university.
Apart from the subvention reduction and a decline in enrolment, the university is now dealing with protests and threats by its staff over wage negotiations for daily and weekly-rated workers, monthly-paid administrative technical and service employees.
In a breakdown for the 2021/2022 academic year for undergraduate enrolment, Antoine said UWI saw an 18 per cent decline in humanities and education studies. There was also a seven and five per cent decline in social sciences and science and technology respectively.
Additionally, there was a 38 per cent decrease in diplomas. However, engineering, law, medical sciences and sports faculties saw a five, eight, two and 15 per cent growth in undergraduate degrees.
But the university’s greatest concern is the 26.5 per cent decline in postgraduate enrolment.“This was a decline of eight per cent and as much as 31 per cent in law, which is a self-financed programme.” Under the postgraduate programme humanities and education declined by five per cent and medical sciences also experienced a drop by four per cent.”
The campus also recorded a six per cent decline in graduates – two per cent increase of undergraduates and 23 per cent decrease of postgraduates. Overall there was a 82 per cent increase in students present for their graduation ceremony.
Even with the downturn, the university had hit a few milestones toward providing a more efficient and accessible education product during covid19 and post-pandemic.
The campus digitalised the Research and Ethics Committee, scholarship applications and approval as well as the campus research and publication fund. The campus also introduced the grade-point average to undergraduate programmes.
It managed to review 355 courses and automated a number of its processes to improve time delivery.
Antoine boated of the campus’ new four-part virtual student orientation process, online career exploration, planning and development workshops.
She spoke of new devices, renovated washrooms and CCTV system installation, a new pavilion at the northern pedestrian entrance and library renovations using money from the School Amenities Fund.