New Approach to Funding Tertiary Education: Shaping the 21st Century Mona Campus
The leadership of The University of the
West Indies, Mona Campus, is on a
mission to make this the region’s most
modern and sought-after institution, using a
development model which could become the
go-to for other campuses and institutions.
In recent years, there have been several
changes: a new medical building, new halls of
residence, restaurants and banking facilities.
Strapped for cash but determined not to borrow,
Mona’s Principal Professor Archibald McDonald and his team are pursuing a series of
public/private Partnerships that have breathed
new life into the 68 year-old institution.
The slow steady pace of development is
being ramped up: old buildings are giving
way to new ones, old facilities refreshed and
equipment upgraded. The plans are as ambitious
as they are optimistic and expensive,
but the University is racing full speed ahead.
Surprisingly, the institution is not spending a
Speaking with Mona Magazine recently, Professor
McDonald outlined a raft of initiatives
that aim to reshape the sprawling Mona
Campus into an ultra-modern institution offering
its students a world-class education in
line with corporate needs, the very best in accommodation,
student services and comfort.
Mona’s student housing development model
is now seen as the standard for cash-strapped
colleges and institutions, and is to be rolled
out across the entire UWI system. Who would
have known that a rather contentious induction
speech just over three years ago would
result in a prolific and rewarding relationship
between the Mona Campus and the private
“During my induction speech I noted that governments
over the years had not done enough
for the University… and I challenged the private
sector to do more. It has paid off,” Professor
McDonald said with a chuckle. He noted
that the “relationship between the private sector
and the university has never been closer”.
On one hand, UWI is getting what it needs
in development: technological and industry
support through several Memoranda of
Understanding (MOUs) and Private/Public Partnerships, while the investors salve their corporate responsibility
needs and makes a profit.
A partnership between The UWI, Mona and 138 Student Living – a
subsidiary of K-Limited – to refurbish, remodel and operate its halls of
residence, has revolutionised the management of student housing.
Irvine Hall is being refurbished, demolishing some of the old buildings
to make way for new ones, adding another 1,100 rooms to bring
world-class accommodation and ‘home comforts’ to campus living.
And this is only the beginning.
The agreement for the construction of 1,584 houses at a cost of $4
billion over three years should increase the number of rooms on the
Mona Campus to about 6,000. The first 480 units have already been
delivered, 500 will be handed over soon and the balance is scheduled
for handover in 2017. This makes the University the largest single
owner of ‘hotel’ rooms on the island.
“Because of the cash flow problems we have not been able to maintain
the facilities properly, so outsourcing gives us the opportunity to
do the renovations which are necessary and have world-class accommodation
for our students,” Professor McDonald explained.
New housing is only one component of the overall strategy to increase
revenues, Mona’s principal continued: “We are trying to increase the
number of international students. It has been slow, but what we have
done is to attract more regional students especially from Trinidad and
Tobago. Whenever you bring students from outside of Jamaica, you
need to provide accommodation for them”.
K Limited and UWI’s other partners will recover their investments
from the savings and earnings. Ambitious as this is, it is only the tip
of the iceberg.
The next three to five years will see major changes on Campus, among
them the conversion of the 15-room Mona Visitors' Lodge & Conference
Centre into a 150-room hotel; and the development of College
Common. Replacing the Mona Visitors’ Lodge will improve the offerings
at what is already a “very nice place for weddings” to provide
modern conference facilities and a one-of-a-kind wedding location.
Over at College Common, the UWI-owned residential property, things
are about to change. The 100-acre property which is currently home
to some of the University’s senior academic and adminstrative staff,
is a laid-back community of colonial-style homes on up to an acre
of land. Its current layout makes it difficult to secure and maintain,
Professor McDonald said, noting: “College Common has been there
for 60-odd years, it is exactly as the British left it, only it is much
worse as the houses are in disrepair.”
A mix of town houses, apartments and up-scale homes, some of
which will be offered as high-end rentals to companies and Embassies,
will replace the run-down old houses, provide staff with
updated facilities and the university with much-needed revenue to
continue funding the extensive development plans that are being
There is no doubt this project could reap big benefits. After all, the
Mona Campus sits on some prime lands, in a coveted zip code.
And pulling everything together, an ultra-modern Campus/Student
centre housing a modern auditorium for university functions including
the annual graduation exercise, the housing of the students’
union, a place where students meet, study or just hang out. In addition
to the coffee shops, meeting and reading rooms, the centre is
expected to be a hub of activity for the 18,000 students on roll.
But plans would not be complete without an adequate supply of
water and cost-effective energy. In fact, the co–generation plant that
is already cooling several of the buildings on campus will also provide
electricity. Once completed, the plant is expected to only reduce the
campus’ dependence on the national grid, and slash energy costs by
as much as 50 percent – that translates to roughly $50 million dollars
in monthly savings.
In addition, the University’s well-publicised water woes are about to
disappear. A new well providing 750,000 gallons a day will more than
satisfy the campus’ 500,000-gallon daily requirement, saving an additional
$20 million in water charges. With all these coming together,
Professor McDonald is delighted.
“If you were to look at our audited statements
we would not be able to afford all of this,”
he said. But the private/public partnership
agreements have allowed the University to
improve campus facilities and the value of
the services on offer.
“I see this as a new model for the funding of
tertiary education,” McDonald said, noting
that institutions need money to stay competitive
amidst growing competition.
And how much will all this development
cost? On the conservative side, more than
US$2 billion. What is important, however, is
that The University will not spend ‘one red
cent’, as the saying goes. As Professor McDonald
puts it, Corporate Jamaica is finally seeing
the value of partnering with the institution.
The benefits are mutual, ranging from product
design, development and testing to skills
transfer, professional development and income
generation; and for students, industry-specific
training, internships and scholarships.
Investors including local corporations like the
Jamaica Public Service, the French giant Total,
and US marijuana company CITIVA, all fund
projects that improve their products and
outputs, and add to their bottom line. And
the improvements to the Mona Campus
are not all.
Over at the University Hospital of the West
Indies, in addition to the installation of a fully
computerised medical filing system, slated
for completion early next year, architectural
designs for a major rebuilding project are
on the ‘drawing board’. Several buildings
will be demolished and replaced, Professor
This year, as the University prepares to begin
clinical trials of marijuana extracts to treat
epilepsy in children and chronic pain; the expansion
and relocation of the Western Jamaica
Medical Campus has begun and
negotiations are underway for the construction
of a modern medical facility on the site
of the new campus to take advantage of the
growing medical tourism market.
Even so, The UWI Mona continues to look for
ways to leverage the many opportunities
available, with entrepreneurs with the acumen
and fortitude to take up the challenges.
Take the Usain Bolt Track for instance. There
are plans for a gym and winter sports centre
around the state-of-the art running track.
“We just need someone to manage the process,
but then that might be for my successor,”
Professor McDonald said thoughtfully.
And there are so many things to do. With
world-class athletes and universities lining
up to experience the training that made the
‘Big Man’ a legend – and the opportunities
presented by an Olympic-sized swimming
pool –Mona’s standing as the home of
the athlete dubbed the ‘Living Legend” is
destined to soar.