USM to start $8M phased expansion

 ~ Cooperation, funding, higher education law needed ~

POND ISLAND–University of St. Martin (USM) is hoping to embark on a major phased- expansion of its facilities later this year, which is estimated to cost approximately US $8 million combined.

However, the institution says that adequate funding and cooperation with the private sector and government are needed to guarantee solidifying and expanding the university. The institution also wants the higher education law to be put in place.

The first phase of the expansion, which USM is hoping to kick-off later this year, is estimated to cost approximately $2 to $2.5 million, while the second phase is estimated to cost $4 million. This phase will include the construction of a computer lab, replacing all the computers at USM, installing new programmes, a cafeteria for students, business offices, parking spaces for students and a complete redo of the entrance of the university.

The second phase will include the construction of dormitories, and the expansion will take place behind the current USM building. The operations of the institution are expected to continue during the expansion process as much of the existing structure will remain intact

“We are hoping to get things started this year,” a USM official said. The institution is currently working on the details of the expansion and is still working on things such as acquiring the necessary building permits etc. before it can break ground. The intention is to break ground and start the expansion, rather than break ground and wait months before the work can start.  

Member of the USM Foundation (board) Danny Ramchandani told reporters and invited guests at a press conference on Wednesday that some of the existing offices are currently in “bad shape”. “We will be relocating all our offices that are in bad shape at the moment. All the computers will be changed and we will have new programmes,” Ramchandani said. “The Registrar’s Office is in a bit of a chaos at the moment and we will get new programmes so that students can get their results and credits faster. It will actually look like a university. I believe that if the building is inviting then students who are trying to go abroad and look at USM with a negative feeling, will want to attend here.”

He said USM will embark on fundraising initiatives to acquire funds for the expansion. USM is confident that it will raise the funds needed and Ramchandani assured that the expansion “will take place.” He said the expansion will transform USM into a modern university. He said, however, that while it may be easy to construct a building, all efforts would be needed to attract qualified students to the modernized and expanded facility.

Ramchandani cautioned, however, that the university would need the law on higher education to be put in place and it would also need funding. “We had promised that we will have accredited programmes and the management team has achieved this. We said we will make sure that all students who graduate from schools such as Sundial will be able to come to USM, and this is possible now, but we need to expand our facilities,” he stressed.

“Making a building is pretty easy. We can find funding and make amazing offices, but they have to be filled. We need qualified students to be in school, but we cannot do that if all the laws are not put in place and if all the funding is not put in place. We need that help from our government. We definitely need the higher education law in place so that when students come here and graduate they can have a degree that is recognised.”

Ramchandani said he has put a programme together for fundraising to secure funds for the expansion. “We will start, but we need all the ingredients for students to get a proper degree that is recognised. If we don’t do that, then all the efforts would be in vain.”

He said the USM Foundation is a voluntary board and members put their “heart and soul” to take USM to “a higher level” and the assistance of government and every citizen is needed to help the university realise its goals.

He said many persons have approached him to make the expansion possible as they do not want their children to go abroad for higher education when they are too young. “So we need to do this together, but all the ingredients need to be in place. We can have a state-of-the-art supermarket and can have state-of-the-art equipment in the supermarket, but if you don’t have the money or the right management to run it then all this efforts would be useless. I have full confidence in our government to back us because for the first time in 15 to 20 years, USM have accredited programmes, though everyone is saying that nothing is accredited.”

USM President Dr. Francio Guadeloupe said currently USM has full accreditation for its business and hospitality programmes via the United Kingdom; full accreditation for its Masters and Bachelor’s programmes in Education; accreditation for its Bachelors in Business Management and it is now looking at starting up accreditation for its General Liberal Arts Degree.

In response to the calls for the tertiary education law Education Minister Silveria Jacobs, who was also present at Wednesday’s event, said stakeholders have received the first draft of the law. The draft will have to make its rounds before it can proceed to Parliament.

Commending USM for its efforts, she said the tertiary education law would not just be beneficial for USM, but for all tertiary education institutions in the country. Regarding funding, she said an increase in subsidy will have to start with an (official) request from the institution.

In the meantime, Ramchandani said if everything happens together in terms of funding, the law and the building, “I guarantee you that we will have students coming out of here who we all will be proud of. All of us: let’s get together and make this happen together.”

Source: The Daily Herald