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Commercialization of Higher Education Institutions a Concern

“There is universal concern for the increasing commercialization of institutions of higher education.” This is the view of Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir George Alleyne expressed in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 7th Mona Academic Conference on Friday (August 27) at the UWI, Mona campus. The conference itself is being held at the Social Sciences Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Social Sciences August 28-29 under the theme RevisitingTertiary & Higher Education Policy in Jamaica: Towards Personal Gain or Public Good?

Sir George noted that both private and public universities are finding it difficult to satisfy legitimate demands of society that “they look to see what aspects of their functions and their physical plant can generate revenue.” He noted that this trend is irreversible but the concern is that “if the university sees itself as having to generate the major part of its income from its entrepreneurial activities, then preoccupation with survival may make it pay less attention to its societal role and the provision of the public goods that only it can provide.”

In his well-researched lecture, the Chancellor gave five reasons for stable government support for higher education. These are: for reasons of social equity government should provide educational facilities that are accessible to everyone; and government is the only agency representing the public that should fund those aspects of higher education that represent public goods which are provided by institutions of higher education.

The third reason is that the returns made to society by graduates of tertiary institutions, even when they leave the country do contribute to the public good and the fourth is that governments should ensure that there are higher education institutions which are genuinely national and which fulfill the functions of providing the public goods needed for the wholesome development of society. Sir George gave the fifth reason for stable government support of higher education as ensuring that institutions do not become overly involved in entrepreneurial activities to the detriment of their core functions.

The discussions at the Mona Academic Conference are focusing on several aspects of higher education including issues of access, financing higher education and the government’s perspectives on higher education.

The deliberations are timely in light of significant changes taking place in tertiary and higher education and will serve to inform appropriate policies for higher and tertiary education in Jamaica. Presenters include heads of several tertiary level institutions, UWI academics and representatives of the private sector and government.

The conference continues on Sunday, August 29 and will close with an address by outgoing UWI Vice Chancellor, Prof. the Hon. Rex Nettleford. The closing ceremony will be chaired by Vice Chancellor Designate, Prof. E. Nigel Harris.

The conference is organized by the Alister McIntyre Research and Policy Group, Mona School of Business and is funded by the Office of the Principal.

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