The New Today

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UWI finances – Beckles untold legacy?

I have taken the time to review the state of UWI finances for the period 2014-2019. Info was taken from UWI financials as posted on their website and attached in a pdf for your benefit. The focus is on the attached summation of net income for each cost centre of the UWI structure (4 campuses and the VC centre).

My brief analysis reveals the following:

The Centre which is the central administrative and management unit and better known as the VC office, last recorded a profit in 2014 during Prof Harris last full year as VC. Since then and under Prof Beckles’ leadership the Centre has recorded significant losses. In 2015 said Centre recorded a loss of $9.4 mil which climbed to $31.3mil in 2018 and reflected a loss of $24.8 mil in 2019.

Cave Hill Campus(CH) recorded a positive income every year except for 2018 when it recorded a loss of $73.3 mil. This significant situation occurred due to a debt restructuring program of the then new Mottley Government in Barbados which saw the VC office agreeing to a $100 mil write off of receivables from the Government of Barbados.

Most of that write off ($75mil) was directly related to CH. Had it not been for that one off entry, CH under Dame Barritteau would have shown a positive income for every year since 2014.

The Mona Campus recorded a loss for 3 out of the 6 years reaching a high of negative $24.4 mil in 2019.

St. Augustine Campus recorded a loss for 5 out of the 6 years under review with 4 of those years under Prof Beckles leadership and management.

The Open Campus also recorded a loss for 5/6 years recording a plus of $300k in 2017 but high losses every other year including $14.3 mil in 2019.

It is very instructive that since Sir Hillary Beckles became VC of UWI, the institution has recorded a significant financial loss every year – going from a -$330k loss in 2014 (Harris) to -$91.5 million loss in 2019 (Beckles).

Please note that these financials reflect years only up to 2019. One can only imagine how it has deteriorated since 2020 as a reflection of the global pandemic aka COVID-19.

Any Vice Chancellor who has responsibility for the financial management of a University should have been paying great attention to financial health of his University and frontally addressing such. Clearly there seems to have been no strategy to reign in the high cost of the UWI particularly as the VC must have been aware of deteriorating financial situation.

Notwithstanding Sir Hillary’s immense knowledge of and contribution to the history of the Caribbean, there seems to have been no one minding the cash till in recent years.

If the UWI was a corporate entity, the CEO would have been booted out by the Board a long time ago. As a University and perhaps considered a social good, there ought to have been the realisation that financiers have no bottomless pit of cash. I shudder to think what the 2020 figures are like.

More importantly, any VC must see himself as a CEO. In this case it would be advisable that the present VC quietly take his package and slip away before audits start to unravel a more unholy mess.

UWI needs to get effective leaders at the level of VC and Campuses who understand and appreciate the critical importance of financial management and effective leadership. Historians and Clinical researchers do have their roles to play but at this juncture we need leaders who know about leadership in these turbulent times. This is not a friendly society.

Concerned UWI – Cave Hill Graduate