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Friday, December 20, 2013


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday December 20, 2013, CMC – Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who four months ago ended a five-decade-old policy of funding tuition for Barbadians at the University of the West Indies (UWI), on Wednesday called on the UWI to graduate intellectuals with good ideas to ensure the Caribbean's future development.

“The possession of a university degree should begin to mean that its holder is equipped to meet a wide range of intellectual challenges because his mind has been developed to a level that admits of a certain flexibility based on a firm grasp of logic, of sequence and of a basic ethics,” Stuart said at a ceremony marking the end of the UWI Cave Hill Campus’ 50th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday night.

“Yes, the university will produce professionals and academics. But it must also concentrate on producing intellectuals. As I see it, the true intellectual is a man or woman who believes in the generation and elucidation of ideas. He or she has to earn a living and must, of necessity, live off of what he or she knows. But he or she must live also for what he or she knows.”

Stuart said that developing countries, like those in the Caribbean, could not afford to lose the battle in the area of ideas.

“We may not win in areas like oil, commodities and military hardware.   But we can be equals or, better still, superiors, in the realm of ideas,” he said, adding there was much ado nowadays about the need to produce graduates who could satisfy the demands of employers in the public and private sectors.

“What I find troubling from time to time, though, is when the end result is a graduate so narrow in focus, that he or she gets lost in his or her ‘professionalism’ and, taken beyond the immediate perimeters of the specific area of study, that graduate can reflect too little of the roundedness that graduate status should imply,” he said.

Mr. Stuart told the ceremony that there was a perception within the society that the university was no longer commenting on issues critical to the development of the region.

“It is the university which should be helping the population to perceive some kind of structure behind the complexity and seeming confusion of life today; some kind of ordered drama behind the daily whirl of events. If the supposedly leading thinkers in our society are not doing this, I ask, who should?

“If Barbados and the Caribbean ever needed clarifying voices it is now.   My sense is that these voices are either in too short supply at the university or are certainly too muted.   We live in a multidimensional world, and we have to manage even the things that we cannot see by effectively managing the things that we can see,” he said.

The prime minister noted that the world had changed drastically from the years when the UWI was established in 1963, noting also that socially, the region was experiencing a situation where an increasing number of people, across classes, face mounting frustration, hopelessness and insecurity as they seem to be losing control over the forces that determine the quality and content of their lives.

Stuart said that education provided the solid foundation for a society to develop its true potential, adding “the public services of this region are now better resourced than at any other time in the region’s history, thanks to the University of the West Indies; and to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the Cave Hill Campus has contributed immeasurably in that regard.

“Many an individual, old and young, has been able to actualise a God-given potential through access to this campus and has set out on the path to a vertebrate life,” he said, describing the university as one which could stand head and shoulders above many in the world of universities, despite the many challenges.

“Its icons through the years now dot our landscape and have continued to serve the Caribbean and the world with distinction.”

But he acknowledged that a university in the West Indies had to reflect the legitimate aspirations of a post-slavery and post-colonial people, and not mimic the priorities of universities which were responding to a different set of historical and developmental imperatives.

“I concede that the task of the university can be made that much easier if governments are clearer about what kind of societies they want to create.  But the task of crafting a regional vision is not one from which the university can afford to divorce itself.  While not hostaging itself to governments of whatever stripe, the university must see itself as a partner in the process of development of the wider community which it is supposed to serve,” he said.

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler in his 2013-14 budget on August 13, said that effective 2014, Barbadian students pursuing studies at the university’s three campuses will be required to pay their own tuition fees, while the government continues to fund economic costs.

The decision effectively ended a policy of free university education for Barbadians dating back to the Cave Hill Campus's opening in 1963, a year after the government introduced full free secondary education to Barbadians.

Sinckler said tuition fees would range from BDS$5,625 to BDS$65,000 (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) and that the new policy would reduce the transfer to UWI by an estimated BDS$42 million a year.

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