UWI principal warns of danger in gov’t cuts to university spending Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus, Professor Densil Williams, warns against the notion of reducing g government funds from university education to the pre-primary and primary sectors, labelling it as “dangerous”.

Speaking at a lecture on ground-breaking cancer research delivered by UWI lecturer Dr Simone Badal-McCreath, Prof Williams said such outstanding work leading to higher paying jobs and a more prosperous economy will only be possible if the funding of tertiary education is prioritised.

 “A lot of people still question the value of investing in an institution such as ours, but I say to you look no further…what Simone and her team have been doing is a clear manifestation of the tremendous value that a high-quality institution like the UWI will bring to national, regional and global developments”, the Principal said in his remarks.

 “You do not get cell line research in high school (or) in a Polytechnic or a training institute that’s just turning out some people to go and build a car or make bread or answer the phone in a call centre…you get this kind of research from a quality academic institution where faculty members spend a significant amount of their time thinking through problems, identifying methodologies that can give them concrete and scientifically proven solutions and then applying those solutions in a way that they can solve contemporary and unforeseen problems”, Prof Williams said.

The occasion was the UWI Mona/VM Group Lecture under the theme “Leaving No Cell Behind: Levelling the Playing Field for Black People with Cancer” on Thursday March 21.

For years much of Dr Badal-McCreath’s research centred around treatments for prostate cancer in black men.

The Mona principal’s comments come against the background of the reduction of funding by successive Jamaican governments to the UWI over the past two decades.

UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hillary Beckles observed last month that funding to UWI Mona by Jamaican governments had fallen from 80 per cent of the campus’ revenue to 50 per cent over the past 20 years.

In July last year Finance minister Dr Nigel Clarke noted that at the pre-primary level Jamaica was spending only seven per cent of its GDP per child versus 13 percent in countries of the Caribbean.

He said however Jamaica spends 35 percent of its education budget on tertiary education, compared to 22 percent for the Caribbean as a whole.

But Professor Williams said the world-class research coming out of the UWI would benefit persons all over the world for generations to come.

 “This is what separates us from all the other places that are handing out certificates and putting people into a room and writing something on the blackboard on a Saturday or Sunday”, he said.

 “What Badal et al have been doing, persons will think that it has no relevance today, but a hundred years from now when the solutions are coming to bear and transforming society, they will say but we never thought about those problems (then).

 “When we hear the very dangerous argument that tertiary level people are closer to market and therefore the state should take away the funding and put it at pre-primary and primary level, it’s a very dangerous road to go down as a country because what you’re going to have is a set of people who are clogged up at the literacy and numeracy stage, but cannot be transferred to the tertiary stage.

 “Funding a university is not something you should take lightly, if indeed you are interested in developing a sophisticated economy where people can earn high incomes and better standard of living where people can be proud about raising families, doing business and work”, Professor Williams said.

In the financial year 2022/23 the Ministry of Education received the largest budgetary allocation of $122 billion, with Higher Education and Training receiving $20.6 billion.