The US$275 million debt owed to the University of the West Indies (UWI) by Barbados and other Caribbean Governments will be settled by the end of April.
The announcement was made this afternoon by UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles who told reporters following a Campus Council Meeting that St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris was mandated at last month’s 29th Inter-Sessional CARICOM summit in Haiti to meet with the respective political leaders to get them to honour their outstanding debts to the regional institution.
Sir Hilary said the decision came after the university made a presentation to all the prime ministers during the February 26 and 27 conference.
“The Governments resolved and agreed that the heads . . . will resolve this matter in the next two months . . . that prime minister Harris of St Kitts and Nevis has been mandated by the Heads of Government to carry out shuttle diplomacy to move from country to country as prime minister, meet with all the prime ministers and to work through a win-win strategy where those resources can be made available to the university for its transformation for the 21st century,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor also said that in seeking to reach a settlement, consideration would be given to the “very narrow space” available to each country.
“And as a result of that, the strategies we are looking at are assets for cash. We are looking at strategies whereby the debt can be sold to financial institutions that have a willingness [to buy] and many financial institutions have expressed a willingness to buy this debt from the government under win-win circumstances,” he said, adding that things were looking up from that point of view.
Sir Hilary noted that despite a 40 per cent loss in students in three years, a 30 per cent cut in budget and a debt which is larger than its operating budget, the Cave Hill Campus neither despaired nor gave up hope though its viability was at stake.
He praised Principal Eudine Barriteau for her inspiring resilience, innovativeness and a spirit of triumph over the last two years that disproved the notion that Cave Hill Campus was a burden to the Barbados Government.
Earlier in a 27 page report to the council meeting, the principal outlined a series of achievements last year which included the expansion of the provision of medical education by targeting markets in the United States and Ghana.
“In July 2017, a campus delegation visited the University of Miami where we signed an MOU and held very fruitful talks with President Julio Frenk, and other senior officials,” she said.
Professor Barriteau also reported that a three-person campus contingent took part in a successful Republic Bank trade mission to Ghana where they discussed establishing a transnational, medical programme with Ghanaian government ministers, the vice chancellor and senior colleagues of the University of Ghana.
“I am very happy to report that just last week, we gladly approved a request by the Vice Chancellor Owusu and his articulation team to visit Cave Hill in early July to view our medical facilities and renew our MOU which Vice Chancellor Beckles will sign on behalf of the UWI,” she revealed.
She said Cave Hill also built academic relations with Japanese universities, expanded the programmes of the Confucius Institute and the Faculty of Humanities and Education and worked with the Confucius Institute to develop and introduce a minor in Chinese studies by the beginning of academic year 2018/2019.