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UWI to provide new student housing under innovative private-public partnership arrangement

Ground was broken at The University of the West Indies, Mona on Thursday, September 18, 2014 for a new housing development which will enable the institution to provide accommodation for an additional 1,584 students over the next three years.
The first set of 576 units will be delivered in time for the start of the 2015/16 academic year.
The project is being facilitated through a public-private partnership between The UWI, Mona and developers and proposed operator of the new residences, K (138 Student Living Jamaica) Limited.  The company is the student accommodations arm of K Limited, a property development company. Phase one of an estimated $4B project, will be financed by a loan syndication arrangement led by the Jamaica Mortgage Bank (JMB) and the National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB).
Under the terms of the partnership, 138 Student Living will design, build and operate the high quality student accommodations on lands leased from The UWI, Mona.  At the end of the lease period and in accordance with the agreed terms, 138 Student Living will transfer the buildings in good condition to The UWI free of cost.
The project entails the construction of 11 buildings of six storeys high, with 144 rooms per building. Rooms will be arranged in room clusters of 12, with each bedroom having its own bathroom. Each cluster of 12 rooms will have a kitchen equipped with stoves/refrigerators and microwave ovens and common area consisting of dining tables and chairs, cable television and comfortable lounge seating will also be provided.Access for the disabled will be provided to all buildings and rooms will be configured for this population. Construction is slated to last for 36-48 months. The company is expected to deliver 576, 576 and 432 units to the University at the start of each school year in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
In expressing appreciation for the development, UWI Mona Principal, Professor Archibald McDonald said it represented a new direction for funding tertiary education in Jamaica and the Caribbean.  He noted that a central plank of the University’s strategic plan and Mona’s operational plan was the recruitment of a large number of international students who would be able to fund their own education. He added that this was critical to ensuring that no Jamaican student would be denied a UWI education because of inability to pay, since fees from international student would enable the University to provide scholarships, bursaries and other forms of financial assistance to students who were unable to fund themselves.
Professor McDonald pointed out that there is a supply gap of acceptable on-campus student accommodation at Mona. He noted that with a population of some 15,000 students, The UWI, Mona has just 3500 rooms, resulting in a significant shortfall in the housing stock on Campus.
The Principal added that the Campus had recently been registered with the Department of Education in the USA and was about to sign an agreement with the Government of Nigeria to send students to Mona. The   housing project was therefore critically important.
He continued that the project demonstrated that the private sector can invest in tertiary education and get a reasonable return on their investment.
“The private sector will understand that when we ask for their involvement in funding tertiary education we are not asking them for handouts. We are seeking business partners which will participate with us in the provision of first world standard of education… while  they will achieve what the private sector and business people are required to do, that is to make a profit on their investment.
Guest speaker at the ceremony was Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, who noted that this was an innovative approach to funding tertiary education and could become a model for public-private partnerships in the future.  He pointed to the difficulties being faced by the Students Loan Bureau and lamented the reluctance of commercial banks to provide financing for students wishing to pursue tertiary education. However, he informed the audience that the Government had been able to identify funds to enable the Students’ Loan Bureau to meet the demand from both new and returning students this year.
Construction funding for the initial phase is being provided under a syndication arrangement involving Jamaica Mortgage Bank (JMB) and National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB), with JMB undertaking the role of lead bank. Speaking on behalf of both financing entities, the Chairman of JMB, Mr. Howard Mollison, underscored the significance of the transaction to the banks noting that it represented the first use of the public-private partnership vehicle to provide student accommodation on the island and that the banks took a very creative approach to structuring the deal.  He stated further that the banks were particularly proud to be associated with the project given its potential to positively   impact the UWI’s strategic growth objective and the central role of education and training in furthering Jamaica’s Vision 2030 objectives.

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