Grappling to deal with financial constraints, the University of T&T has now closed down its campus at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando.
Workers from Electro-sign Ltd were seen removing the UTT signs from the $350 million facility yesterday, built to develop and showcase indigenous cultural talent.
UTT president Sarim Al-Zubaidy did not respond to emails but board member Professor Clement Imbert confirmed the UTT SAPA campus was no more.
Saying it hurt his heart to lead the exercise, Imbert said UTT has to engage in cost-cutting measures or face a total closure. A source said the institution had a $6 million cut in its monthly subvention of $16.7 million and has been unable to meet its expenses.
“The reality is we are not getting the money that we got before, so some programmes will have to go,” Imbert said.
Two programmes Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Science and Management, Bioscience and Agriculture and Health Sciences have already been cut and Imbert said if UTT does not reduce its expenses and Government cuts its subvention, the institution will be closed down and everyone will lose their jobs.
“Unfortunately a lot of people have to go or else the whole of UTT will crash and everybody will have to go. Clearly, if we don’t get any money from Government we will close down so whatever money we get now we have to try to live within our means,” he said.
Imbert said it will be a travesty if the institution goes belly up.
“I don’t believe it is the intention of the Government or anybody else is to close down UTT. I don’t know how things will turn out,” Imbert said. He added that T&T was rich in talent and so far there is no plan to shut down the programme.
He noted that UTT has international accreditation on some programmes adding that it was imperative for UTT to manage its operating costs efficiently.
He noted that the closure of the SAPA campus will not affect students.
“Any centre that we have to close will not affect students because we are going to ensure that students are properly taken care of. We have not sent home staff because we are in discussions with the ministry and the union. However, we will have to send home a lot of staff if UTT is to survive with the money we are getting,” Imbert said.
He said UTT was overstaffed and executives believed the institution could function with 60 per cent of existing staff.
While UTT does not pay a rent at SAPA or NAPA, Imbert said electricity, water, security and maintenance costs were high.
He noted that the downturn in the economy forced people to be more efficient.
CRITICAL MEETING TODAY
The issue of the retrenchment of 287 workers from the University of T&T (UTT) will be a top priority at a meeting carded for today at the Ministry of Education in Port-of-Spain.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia, UTT Board members led by its Chairman of the Board of Governors, Professor Kenneth Julien, along with UTT’s President, Professor Sarim Al-Zubaidy will meet with a team from the representing union, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union’s (OWTU) team, led by president general Ancel Roget on the way forward.
The meeting is scheduled to commence at 9 am.
It is said that 287 members of staff, including academics, are expected to be retrenched. When this exercise is done it is expected to save UTT approximately $41.5 million.
Al-Zubaidy on January 15 sought to update staff on its restructuring via a signed letter.
In it, he stated that on January 11, the separation proposal was submitted to the OWTU, as well as the Ministry of Education. —Rhondor Dowlat