University of the West Indies: the report which throws a paving stone in the pond

At the end of January 2020, the deputies Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin, submitted their report on the current state of the University of the Antilles. 56 damning pages recounting the open war between the poles (Guadeloupe and Martinique) and whose recommendations were badly received by some.

30 pages, no less! This is what it took for the two rapporteurs of the said Parliamentary Information report to explain how nothing is going right at the University of the Antilles.

From the breakup of the UAG (University of the Antilles and Guyana) in 2013 to the establishment of the legal framework of the AU (University of the Antilles) with the law of 2015, everything goes. The first two parts out of the three in the document, therefore establish an inventory of the most deplorable:
Recurring long-term illnesses
Internal Wars
Rivalry between the two poles
assault complaints
request for protective measures.

These tensions never stopped and the separation of Guyana only exacerbated the historic rivalry between the two islands (note: Martinique and Guadeloupe) "will set the report from the start (p.7 / 56).

The CEREGMIA case between symptom and stigma of a serious situation

The finding could have ended there, but the report will not have passed over the CEREGMIA affair.

Created in 1986 by Professor Fred Celimène, the Center for Studies and Research in Economics, Management, Modeling and Applied Computing has indeed hit the headlines. Until, as the rapporteurs recall, in April 2019, the Martinique prosecutor asked the investigating judge to divest the case for the benefit of the national financial prosecutor's office.

The counts of crimes are numerous:
– Infringement of freedom and equality of access to public contracts or delegation of public service and concealment.
– Organized gang scam to the detriment of the financial interests of the European Union, through the improper capture of Community funds
– Theft of public property by a person in charge of a public service.
– False in writing and use
– Interference with a public service.

Known for major financial embezzlement, the CEREGMIA case was, according to the deputies Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin, the main symptom of the dysfunctions of a university whose governance poses a problem.

AU governance under scrutiny

After having "examined" the University of the Antilles, from its functioning to its financing, passing through its human resources, the report will endeavor to explain the current governance of the higher education institution. And it is not an easy task.

The law of 2015 establishing the University of the Antilles, site contract, report of the HCERES (High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education), report of the IGAENR (General Inspection of the Administration of National Education and Research), mission of François Weil, State Councilor, AMUE report (Agency for the Transfer of Universities and Establishments); all the texts and works fixing or dissecting the governance of the AU are put under the microscope.

And the observation is clear: "Problematic legal ambiguities", "serious administrative dysfunctions", "structural inadequacies", "Exacerbated rivalries between the poles" …
For the rapporteurs, an in-depth reform of the governance bodies and their organization between the two poles is needed.

Sometimes misinterpreted recommendations

On 3 and a half pages, Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin will end up making very specific recommendations.
To achieve this, they rely on a simple observation. The distribution of resources between the poles (Martinique, Guadeloupe) is inequitable.

With 33.64% for Martinique and 66.36% for Guadeloupe, this distribution is, according to the rapporteurs, calculated by the management of the AU (based in Guadeloupe) on the basis of student enrollment, lessons taught and activity search for each pole. This is the allocation key chosen by the AU Board of Directors in April 2018.

This famous distribution key is questioned, without being denounced, by the report. The rapporteurs therefore propose to "rethink the question of the distribution of resources on new bases".
Their main argument: the distribution key thus defined does not allow the development of a portal of sufficient education in Martinique because of its constantly decreasing number of students. And the fewer students there are, the less there is to offer and the less there are to offer, the less there are students. It's the dog that bites its tail!

A new split would sound the death knell for the University!

For a balanced sharing, the report therefore requests "that the means allocated to the initially overdone pole be sanctuarized on the date of creation of the AU … It is a question that the rebalancing is not done by taking from the other pole but by an additional contribution from the ministry "(p. 30, 31/56).

For Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin, this is a sine qua non condition for the survival of the University of the Antilles. Survival which is therefore due to an effort on the part of the State. Because a new split would spell the end of the University. Here we are!

But it is on the "administrative devolution" part (p. 33/56) that the report cringes on the Guadeloupe side.

In their parliamentary document, the rapporteurs indeed recommend that the administrative services, now concentrated on Guadeloupe, be equitably "distributed" over the two poles. Thus Martinique could recover certain services which would contribute, according to Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin, to appease "the feeling of being left behind" perceived Martinican side.

In no case is it a question of relocating the management of the University of Guadeloupe to Martinique but rather of a fair distribution of the administrative services of the AU between the two poles.

This review of the governance of the AU, called by the rapporteurs of the document, is no surprise to anyone. The rivalry between the two French Caribbean islands for higher education in their territories has penalized the development of the only French university in the basin for far too long.

The University of the West Indies (UCWI) taken as an example

What Josette Manin and Danièle Hérin offer implicitly is a university where each pole would benefit from its autonomy but which would remain a single higher education entity much like the UCWI (University of the West Indies).

The University of the West Indies, as English speakers call it, is in fact shared by no less than 17 Caribbean States. It has 3 campuses (Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) without this having ever posed any problems, on the contrary.

Today, it is ranked among the 10 best performing universities in the world in terms of academic results but also of teaching offers. The key to its success: complementary rather than competitive campuses.

Will we be able to put aside the egos to erase rivalries and achieve the development of a united Antilles University consistent in terms of educational offerings?
For this, it would also be necessary for the political will to join the desire to offer complementary university courses and in line with the needs of the territories concerned (Martinique, Guadeloupe).

The information report