The UWI’s “Ten in Two” Austerity Plan

Executive management of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) emerged from a recent two-day retreat with a deeper focus on the University’s financial condition and commitment to regional economic growth.

Examining the first two years of The UWI’s performance within the context of its five-year Triple A strategic plan 2017-2022 themed “Revitalizing Caribbean Development”, management converged on the need for even greater financial efficiency.

Considerable strides were made on strategic outcomes such as research recognition, global impact and leadership, access to teaching and learning, and public accountability. However, the University sees the economic sustainability of the region as its most important challenge, hence greater focus on the institution’s financial health in order to be an effective development partner.

The University, in the last two decades, has been challenged with rising levels of receivables from governments on account of the narrowing fiscal space associated with falling competitiveness and meeting IMF conditionalities. The impairment of these debts and other write-offs in the last decade has meant a considerable loss to the University. To remedy this situation, Prime Ministers at the Caricom Heads of Government Meeting in Haiti last year agreed to assist with an assets-for-cash swap, a welcomed response that motivated the University to accelerate its comprehensive austerity programme.

Evolving from the retreat discussions, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles approved a “Ten in Two Strategy”; calling on all campuses and Regional Headquarters/Vice-Chancellery administration to cut expenditures by 10% over the next two years. All UWI entities have been tasked with consolidating academic programmes, adopting a robust out-sourcing methodology that targets non-core expenditures, and diving deeper into the digital culture in search of cost reductions and savings.

Simultaneously, the Vice-Chancellor requested that operational units increase top line revenue-generation by 10% over the same period, to achieve a UWI-wide savings of approximately US$30 million.

In addition, the executive management retreat agreed to an aggressive programme to achieve five new targets over the next two years of the current strategic plan:

  1. Intensification of cross-campus planning to drive digital transformation;
  2. Implementation of the University as a multi-lingual academy;
  3. Consolidation of The UWI’s reputation as the global leader in climate action and advocacy;
  4. Fast track strategies to develop the entrepreneurial culture across The UWI system and to cultivate “UWI Corporate” as an effective brand;
  5. Establishment The UWI Global Online platform to offer programmes and courses internationally.

With this strategic direction, The UWI will continue to soar as the Caribbean’s premier university.