In a show of unwavering support for The University of the West Indies (UWI), all 17 of its contributing countries were represented at the kick-off of the two-day annual budget meetings on March 7, 2023. The third iteration of virtual Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) meetings since 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2023 budget sessions were hosted by the contributing country, Belize.
Speaking in the context of The UWI’s celebration of its 75th Anniversary, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles praised the contributing nations for their committed support over the decades. “Indeed, without the firm and sustainable contributions of our people and our governments and the financing of this enterprise, we would not be here today; in a position where we can say that with the resources made available to this University, we are celebrated as a global institution of excellence and distinction.” He was careful to note, however that while The UWI celebrates the accomplishments of the past 75 years, “We are looking into the future. We are looking into the trajectory of our communities, our nations, we are imagining the best-case scenarios for our people, and we are meeting to discuss how best we can serve imaginatively with innovation and greater efficiency.”
During the two days of meetings—March 7 and 8—the budgets for the Biennium 2023 to 2025 for the five Campuses, the University Centre, the Seismic Research Centre and the University Hospital of the West Indies were presented. Representatives of the contributing countries deliberated on whether the University’s requests were fair and reasonable to fulfil its mandate. Recommendations will then be made to Campus and University Grants Committees (UGCs) which are expected to meet on April 14, 2023 to review and approve the TACs’ recommendations and advance them to The UWI’s Annual Business Meeting of Council for final approval on April 28, 2023.
The Opening Ceremony for the meetings was chaired by Mrs. Andrea McNish, University Bursar/Chief Financial Officer. She noted that to date 47% of the University’s income still comes from contributing countries and highlighted continued institutional commitment to the ‘revenue revolution’ with the university continuing to review all operational areas to reduce cost, while seeking to become more entrepreneurial to increase revenue. Mindful of the economic challenges faced by contributing countries Mrs. McNish, however, called on Governments to settle their accounts; “The high level of Government receivables is still a major concern for the University. We urge our contributing Governments to partner with us in creating and honouring payment plans to liquidate long outstanding debt to the University.”
Delivering the feature address Belizean Prime Minister, The Honourable John Briceño commended The UWI for graciously carrying its mantle and leading the charge of Caribbean development and activism in its 75 years. Honing in on education, Prime Minister Briceño highlighted the need for access, alignment and agility, as inspired by The UWI’s Strategic Plan, in the education system of every contributing country. Specifically referencing the recently launched Belize Medium Term Development Strategy 2022-2026, he emphasized how education was core to all the efforts; “It is not only The UWI that must be focused on access, alignment, and agility. Indeed, we must ensure that the education system in each of our countries is accessible for all our students, aligned with the needs of the nation and agile enough to adapt and respond to an ever-changing world.”
Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, The Honourable Francis Fonseca also delivered remarks adding his acknowledgement of The UWI’s crucial role in advancing the region’s social and sustainable development. He reminded representatives gathered that “the work of reviewing the biennial budgets and making recommendations must be rooted not only in the desire to continue to see the development of the University, but also in the commitment to continue to serve the region.”
The Opening Ceremony of The UWI Technical Advisory Committees was attended by members of the Belizean Cabinet and House of Representatives; University Centre, University Hospital and Campus Executive; other Senior Government and University officials; Student Guild and alumni representatives and other key stakeholders. Remarks were delivered by The UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, The Honourable John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize; The Honourable Francis Fonseca and Mrs. Dian Castillo-Maheia, Minister and CEO of the Belize Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology respectively.