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UTT to downsize

Published: 
Monday, June 4, 2018
UTT Campus Chaguanas.

As part of its cost-cutting exercise, the University of Trinidad and Tobago is now looking at shutting down some of its 13 existing campuses.

The plan is part of the university’s massive restructuring exercise which started on May 11 with the retrenchment of over 50 academic staff. In line with this, the university will be giving up all campuses deemed surplus to its operations

“The plan was to keep six teaching locations. There is a report but they keep changing it,” a UTT source who did not want to be identified told the T&T Guardian.

It is expected that UTT will give up the Chaguanas (Agora) campus once the main university campus in Tamana is opened.

“They have already met with staff there and indicated this,” the UTT source added.

Agora, which is the only building owned by UTT, will either be rented or leased. It is also suspected that one of the Teachers’ Colleges—Valsayn or Corinth will be closed.

“But this is the fallout if they close Valsayn, the people may gravitate to another institution close by and if they closed down Corinth, people in the south may look to go to the University of the West Indies Campus in Debe,” the source said.

“UTT O’meara may be either sub-rented or given up altogether and Corinth most likely to be given back to the Ministry of Education. Discussions are still underway.”

When contacted for comment on this move, a UTT official who wished not to be identified, declined to speak on the future status of the campuses, but said there are three independent teams “working on the same campus project…Quality Assurance, Capital Projects and the Consultants.”

In January this year, UTT’s Campus at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando was closed down.

Chairman of the Board of Governors, Professor Ken Julien, had previously issued a release confirming that the main university campus at Tamana will be fully utilised to consolidate several programmes now being offered at its 13 campuses and any newly-approved programmes.

Meanwhile, the T&T Guardian was also told that within the last three years, UTT had hired at least 48 academic staff, including four professors, paying out approximately $4 million in salaries per month. The salaries ranged from $12,000 to $45,000 per month. Among the positions hired from October 2015 to December 2017 were: three Instructor Is ($12,000 to $15,000), four Instructor IIs ($15,000 to $18,000), 19 Senior Instructors ($18,000 to $28,000), 11 Assistant Professors ($22,000 to $32,000), two Associate Professors ($24,000 to $34,000) and four Professors ($35,000 to $45,000).

According to a UTT official, it was partly-based on these exorbitant salaries and the fact that academics was deemed to be overstaffed that the university started its retrenchment process with those staffers. So far, 57 academic staffers have received dismissal letters and an additional 287 non-academic staff members are also expected to be dismissed, Education Minister Anthony Garcia confirmed in the Senate late last month. According to these figures, an estimated total of 346 staffers will be losing jobs in the exercise. Garcia also confirmed that apart from staff cuts, other preliminary action to reduce costs at UTT is expected before the start of the new 2018-19 academic year.

On May 18, at a media conference, UTT’s deputy chairman and acting chairman of the Board of Governors, Prof Clement Imbert, indicated that as the retrenchment continues among the 125 academics, next to go will be about 20 managers and four vice presidents.

DATABASE SERVICE IN TROUBLE AFTER DEFAULT ON $2 MILLION BILL

In January this year, UTT was unable to renew its library databases and e-journals because it was unable to pay the $2 million renewal fee to its supplier.

In a letter to UTT staff dated January 22, 2018, Chief University Librarian Martha Preddie informed staff that so far, the university had lost access to the Science Direct database and added that they have not been able to renew the Naxos Digital Library.

Preddie advised staffers that it is likely that because of the university’s interrupted access to individual databases and e-journals, it “may be curtailed with or without notice from vendors.”

She then advised that they continuously engage to backup all of the references, search results and documents, emanating from their usage of all electronic library resources, “so that you would have retained them, should we lose access to a database or e-journal at any point in time. This advertisement also applies to references saved in RefWorks.”

Regards to this issue, in a previous interview, UTT’s deputy chairman Professor Clement Imbert said that efforts will be made to provide the same service but “not as lavishly as before.”

The situation is part of the university’s continuing financial woes.

Chairman of the Board of Governors, Prof Kenneth Julien, announced on November 1, 2017, that the university would not be able to continue operations beyond January 2018. He noted then that effective November 10, 2017, there were to be significant job cuts at the managerial and academic levels as a result of severe financial constraints and the further 11 per cent decrease in the university’s 2017/2018 recurrent allocation to TT$200 million.

UTT usually gets a monthly subvention of $16.7 million, but for the months of October 2017 to present, they only received $10 million for each month.

UTT recorded a deficit of $33 million in November 2017, while its reserves currently stand at $2 million.

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