UWI to offer US$60m bond to fund offshore medical school in Trinidad

Hilary Beckles
Hilary Beckles

LOCAL investors will soon get the chance to buy bonds to finance an offshore medical school at the Debe/Penal campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), vice chancellor Prof Sir Hilary Beckles said on Monday.

He said the University Council had agreed to this move, as he addressed a virtual media briefing broadcast on UWI TV, Facing the UWI's Financial Future.

"Council has approved the establishment of an offshore medical school, with permission to go to the market to raise a bond, a US$60 million bond.

He said first UWI and the Government of TT had to sort out some technical details and then the UWI bond would be launched.

"We imagine in three-five years that business project can be generating up 25 per cent, 30 per cent, maybe more, of the campus's financials. It's magnificent."

Sir Hilary said a corporate investment committee including Gerry Brooks (former National Gas Company chairman) and Dodridge Miller (Sagicor president/CEO) had okayed the project.

"They are some of the finest financial people who are accustomed to raising IPOs (initial public offerings) and other attempts to raise capital. They worked it through. UWI is, in 2021, going to the capital market with its first bond issue."

Earlier he said UWI's launch of a "reputation revolution" led to the institution's being rated as one of the best in the world, in the top one per cent of universities in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the top one per cent of golden universities, that is, those institutions 50-80 years old.

"Why must we depend on government for capital, for infrastructure? Why can't we take our reputation to the market?" Sir Hilary reasoned. "We will take our reputation to the market and issue a UWI bond."

Sir Hilary said the People's Partnership government had taken 100 acres of land and $100 million and built a southern campus, which had since been converted by the UWI.

"But what if all of this now can be used as the basis of an offshore medical school? The region is crawling with offshore medical schools. This is one of the most densely concentrated medical cultures in the world. What if UWI can get some of that revenue?"

He said UWI must not to sit back idly and let international universities come in and take advantage of this market.

"We need to be in the market. We are the most reputable medical faculty in the region. We have the best collection of doctors in the Caribbean and now we have a legacy of 70 years of medical teaching and research. We are taking that to the market!"

Sir Hilary was buoyed in this enterprise by the fact that the TT medical profession was highly respected for doing very well in protecting the population from the covid19 pandemic over the past year.

"The timing is perfect. The ducks are lining up."

He said students, alumni and faculty members of UWI should be able to buy into the bond, plus others outside TT.

"At the moment we are primarily looking at the Trinidad market and we believe that US$60 million bond will disappear very quickly, because (of), as I said, the tremendous goodwill that exists there to UWI medicine and UWI science at the moment."

Sir Hilary reckoned that in three-five years' time the offshore medical school could generate up to 25 per cent of the campus's long-term capital and revenue needs.

"On the whole, we are looking at a very entrepreneurial UWI coming out of this pandemic. We have learnt some very hard lessons, and have come out fighting."

He said each campus was intimately linked to the well-being of its host country, so each campus should be encouraged to grow, not shrink.

Sir Hilary expected "significant revenue" from the offshore medical school plus a "global campus" to be created from the international expansion of UWI's Open Campus.


"UWI to offer US$60m bond to fund offshore medical school in Trinidad"

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