University leaders have concluded that the government’s decision to de-fund the postgraduate studies will automatically impact the amount of enrolling students and they will have to create new strategies to adapt.
Responding to questions posed from the Business Guardian, principal of the UWI St Augustine Campus Professor Brian Copeland said: “To buffer any fallout from the removal of GATE we recognise we will need to ramp up the marketing of our graduate programmes and also ensure the relevance of these programmes to the changing national, regional and global demand.”
According to Copeland, the UWI, like other institutions, would need to make adjustments given the economic circumstances. He added that the UWI’s mission is to advance learning, create knowledge and foster innovation for the positive transformation of the Caribbean and the wider world.
Furthermore, Copeland added that the UWI also continues to encourage current and prospective students to access loans from banking and non-banking financial institutions.
He disclosed: “Greater attention also will be placed on programmes that address micro-credentialling targeting career mobility particularly for working students who may not have the luxury to spend one or two years in a graduate programme on a full-time basis.”
Last week, the Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly Gadsby-Dolly announced, that “with immediate effect,” funding for “postgraduate programmes will be discontinued.”
Also speaking to the Business Guardian was UWI’s Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business CEO Mariano Browne who said that the institution has already undertaken a number of changes to remain competitive in the current environment.
He said: “Where we did 17 programmes, we would now be doing five. So the number of programmes that we’re doing will be cut dramatically.”
Browne revealed that the cuts were made in a way that would accommodate what Lok Jack considers to be the available revenue.
Browne indicated that the cut from 17 programmes to 5 has highlighted the institution’s need to focus on “the basics”. According to Browne, the institution still has flexibility with its executive level and professional programmes.
Moreover, Dr Hilary Bowman, President of the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) said that the higher education institution will not only help the students as much as it can, but it will also re-invent its marketing strategy to target students outside of T&T.
Bowman said: “Expectation is one thing. Folks in T&T have had an expectation that education is free and it’s going to take them some time to come to grips with the whole idea that – listen, there’s no such thing as free education.”
According to Bowman the reality of not being assisted by the government will take some time to settle in the minds of prospective postgraduate students.
Bowman also argued that the discontinued government sponsorship of postgraduate studies would not only impact on research and development, but it would also impact the economy as well.
He said that the economy would be impacted by the lack of data that could be gleaned from research and subsequently used in the marketplace.
However, Browne indicated that “people come up with research topics all the time, whether those research topics are generated by a business need is another matter altogether.”
He added that there has been a lack of applied research in the marketplace. Browne contended that if the private sector comes on board to partner with institutions to sponsor applied research, it could improve the economic climate in the country.
Meanwhile, University of T&T (UTT) chairman Clement Imbert said that in T&T it is rare that researchers and university professors would receive grants for applied studies from private sector organisations.
He explained: “Companies don’t give grants much to do research to develop in T&T, they do their research abroad.”
The UTT Chairman highlighted that any cutback on programmes that focus on development would have an adverse impact on the economy. He said: “The whole idea in my view is that, in a money squeeze you have to do something.”
Imbert added that “the something that has to be done” must be applied to the area that would bring the least amount of hurt.
He added: “The country is going through very, very tough times, in addition to COVID and so on, our main foreign exchange earner and a large percentage of our GDP is in the petroleum and that is rather depressed right now.”
In light of this, Imbert explained that the Government has to balance what it is doing with regard to social grants and subsidies. Nonetheless, he expressed that most people after receiving their undergraduate degree, should be able to pay toward their Masters degree.
President of The College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T Dr Gillian Paul emphasised that the institution would not be as impacted as it focuses on degrees at the Bachelors and Associate level.
She indicated nonetheless, “the general understanding is that when the government fully funds education up to the secondary the benefits actually go to the society.”
Paul added: “When you do return on investment research on the post-grad, the understanding is that individuals benefit more than society benefits and because of that research the tendency is for policy makers is to say if individuals benefit more, individuals should contribute more.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Copeland who noted that while the GATE support was helpful in allowing people to benefit from postgraduate studies, ultimately “the benefit accrues to the individual.”
However, he noted while there is likely to be an initial decline in students pursuing graduate programmes, he is “optimistic that the initial decline will “level off” once students make the financial adjustment and embrace the philosophy that a post-graduate education is a personal investment in one’s career path and personal development.”