Ministry of Education clears debt with UWI’s Open Campus

Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, second from left, presents a check to the University of West Indies Chief Financial Officer Andrea McNish, as Ministry of Education Chief Officer Cetonya Cacho, left and Acting Deputy Chief Officer Philip Scott look on.

The Ministry of Education has squared its accounts with the University of the West Indies with a payment of $2.3 million, and says it wants to strengthen the relationship between the two entities.

The Cayman Islands Government has been running a deficit with the university for most of the past decade, starting with a debt of $1,100 in 2008. The university’s financial reports indicate that the government has not been fully paying its bills to the school, although discussions for bringing its account current have apparently been taking place for the past five years.

The university’s 2013 financial report says, “The receipt of (CI)$92,669 was insufficient to liquidate the opening balance of $760,058. Discussions are in process with a view to liquidate the balance.”

The Cayman Islands has had a relationship with UWI and its distance learning programs dating back to the 1960s, officials said in a news release. In 2006, the school established an open campus presence in George Town, one of 42 satellite locations serving 17 countries throughout the Caribbean that provide mostly online courses.

In 2017-2018, 150 students were enrolled in the Cayman campus. The school’s annual report said four students graduated in that period.

Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said UWI’s presence has made a difference for Cayman students.

“Our country has benefited from numerous Caymanian students who have received a world-class education from internationally respected professors and lecturers, all embedded in a Caribbean experience,” Ms. O’Connor-Connolly said in a statement.

The Education Ministry said UWI gives Cayman students certain advantages such as guaranteed admission spaces provided they meet the admission standards, a 40 percent discount on tuition fees to sponsored students attending any of the three full campus sites in Jamaica, Trinidad or Barbados, and greater access to courses, internships, and post-graduate studies in medicine.

The ministry also said courses at the open campus are a bargain, with undergraduate classes costing US$300, and graduate classes US$450.