Preparing UWI for the Challenges of the 21st Century [**Reprint**]
– Black Stalin, Caribbean Unity (1979)
Born in St. Georges, Grenada, Sir Meredith Alister McIntyre is considered one of the Caribbean’s eminent thought shapers and academicians. This highly celebrated Caribbean integrationist and internationalist has served the Caribbean in various capacities, representing the region in a wide range of international forums.
The December 12, 2016 launch of Sir McIntyre’s book, The Caribbean And The Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career, has come with great anticipation because of the reservoir of experience he is expected to share. It is also a moment when the region is in dire need of self-reflection. The book chronicles the wide range of Mr. McIntyre’s celebrated career in academia, regionalism and multilateral cooperation. Sir McIntyre assumed the role of Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica) in 1988 serving in this capacity for 10 years.
As a precursor to a review of this timely book, Big Drum Nation hereby publishes the first segment of a three part interview between Sir McIntyre and Winthrop Holder of the N.Y. Daily Challenge during Sir McIntyre’s stint as VC of the University of the West Indies. This segment, which is even more relevant today, was published on July 31, 1995. – BDN
The Interview: Building a Nexus of Partnerships
Holder: What is the state of the Caribbean [economy] and how does this affect the university?
Sir Alister McIntyre: We are in a state of contraction because we are trying to prepare ourselves for the momentous period ahead–momentous both for the Caribbean and, of course, in a wider global setting. The Caribbean countries are going through some very profound changes both in their economies and in the international setting in which they have–because of international trading sectors, agriculture, sugar, banana; even petroleum and bauxite–very limited growth potential. They are not dead, but they do not promise a great deal for the future. So, that the tasks facing the Caribbean countries now are to find new lines of activity and, to a certain degree, to modernize the activities that are already in existence.
Both tasks require a greater acquisition of knowledge in the production process than has been the case up to now.
Holder: How does the university intend to facilitate this process?
McIntyre: Yes, the university has a role to play. We have to play it in two ways: First, we have to increase our output of graduates in the relevant fields and, secondly, we have to enlarge the knowledge base for economic development. That essentially involves a much greater level of activity in the field of research and development. At the moment, research and development are miniscule proportions.
In the last estimate for Jamaica, only 1/8 of 1% of the gross domestic products is devoted to research and development. When countries are spending less than 3% on research and development, they are doing very badly—the Asian tigers are up to 5%. Therefore, we have not simply to achieve a statistic, but to really develop a much greater stock of knowledge [about] economic development. In agriculture for instance, this involves much greater appreciation of biotechnology than we have done so far.
In tourism, we have to modernize the tourist sector, increase the range of attraction and make it more environmentally sustainable. All of these things require knowledge. Therefore, that is one part of it.
Holder: The question then becomes one of funding: Given the contraction of Caribbean economies where will the increased funding come from?
McIntyre: We did a simulation of what would be the likely proportion of funding that would accrue to the university in the period ahead. We made three assumptions: First, the economies would not grow on average by more than3% a year; Second, that we would get the share of education in the budget up to about 15%–it’s now and average of 13%; so we would get increases in the share of the public budget going to education. In addition, finally, we assume we have to double, in real terms, per capita expenditure on primary education. We do not need to get into that. However, the need there is so acute that we thought that a doubling in per capita was necessary. Then we keep the percentage of secondary education constant; and once those assumptions were inserted, it became evident that the share of public budget, in both relative and absolute terms for university education, would go down.
In other words, we are facing a situation where there is mounting demand for higher education and the work that higher education institutions can do, but decelerating possibilities of increasing the amount of public money that can go into education.
Holder: This raises the issue of private funding and relatedly, is not there perhaps a concomitant need for more innovative approaches of managing the existing allocations to the university…
McIntyre: Certainly, the university has to make itself more cost-recoverable in its work: Namely, we have to develop profit centers and self-financing activities. Moreover, we have to be extremely aggressive in mobilizing outside resources for our work. We are doing this in the Caribbean by, of course, focusing principally on the private sector and alumnus.
We have begun to make some progress, certainly in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. And, of course, we are mobilizing resources from outside the region. That means official donors–The International Development Bank and bilateral donors like the USA, Canada and Japan. These countries are cutting their budgets, so those prospects are not very good. There are also the Caribbean communities in the United Sates, alumni and foundations and corporations interested in the Caribbean.
Holder: Is this a new thrust? If not, how successful has any previous effort been?
McIntyre: In the past, we focused largely on official sources. When we developed our development plans in 1990, we ‘guesstimated’ that we needed U.S. $300 million over the nine-year period. So we decided to try to raise US $100m every three years. We raised $101m, of which $37m was in the form of grants, which we got from a number of sources like foundations and similar types of organizations and bilateral donors. In addition, we raised $65m in the form of loans: $56m from the Inter-American Development Bank—all loans at very good terms. A very significant blanket, but still it is debt, and one has to be careful that an institution as ours does not build up a very substantial overhang of indebtedness. So this time, with the second hundred million we are going for will be official assistance to the extent that we can get. We are relying much more on private support for the remainder.
Holder: So at present, the university is developing a strong footing, both economically and structurally in moving into the 21st century…
McIntyre: We have to. We have no choice. Moreover, we have to focus on our critical problems facing the region that additionally will have a greater impact. And related to that, we have to build up a whole nexus of partnerships and networks with outside institutions and outside companies and so on—both as a way of projecting our activities into the wider world, and also as a way of earning some financial support for the university—whether through consultancy income or whatever it is. So, I think this is really the challenge we face in the world. This is much more difficult than negotiating with a multilateral institution. However, cumbersome it might be, it is an easier job to do, because we know that job. This one we are just learning.
Winthrop R. Holder
A New York City educator, Holder has written extensively on Caribbean cultural pedagogy. He is the author of Classroom Calypso: Giving Voice to the Voiceless (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2007)