Being transparent shows commitment to fiscal responsibility and what’s best for students attending your school. “We are very happy to be able to publish our annual reports 2018-2019 on our website. If you work with public finances you need to be transparent how you spend that money,” says Patrick Arens, Business Director at the University of Aruba. Together, with Finance Manager Iveta Mayerova van Veen, he elaborates on why it is so important to be open during these times.
An annual report is a chance to set the record straight when it comes to accounting for all the costs incurred providing valuable services to students. Arens expresses, “there might be some misconceptions about UA on the island; like about the programs we offer, how much money we get and what we do with it. Showing this all in an academic report allows us to express how much we are actually doing, and that the money we receive from Aruba’s government is not an outrageous amount. We show exactly how we spend this, and people will see it is not about big salary pays, but about investing in innovations and improvements to assure that the level of education is in line with the degree that you are getting.” Mayerova van Veen adds, the report’s goal is also to gain credibility of partners.
“The annual report is basically a showcase of everything that the university did for the year and made on the calendar year, not on the academic year. Every company should make an annual report, unfortunately this is not always the case on Aruba,” states Mayerova van Veen. 90 percent of the universities funding comes from the government, and in her opinion it is good to show where the tax payer’s money is going to. “But also to show if we are in line with good governance, in line with other institutions and to create maybe a public discussion about if we should do some things differently or if anything is lacking.” They worked very hard to catch up with the year reports because due to an unforeseen issue in 2007 UA was running behind and it took quite some time to get where they are now. Arens adds “Year Report 2021 will be ready to be published in the first half of the (coming) year.”
The backbone of the strategic plan and vision for 2021-2026 will be completely aligned with the goals and objectives to obtain the Institutional Accreditation by NVAO (Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organization). Arens: “For all our programs we have obtained accreditations or positive visits from NVAO in the last couple of years. Now we are looking into the institution itself, as in good governance, transparency, facilities and finances. And that is an accreditation that each higher education institution likes to obtain.” He also stressess that this is a multiple year’s plan because you need to be organized on all levels and be able to show this as well. “The UA is growing and we still have some steps to take but the institutional accreditation is a goal we built towards to. We are on our way to achieve.”
Arens jokes that UA was preparing for Covid19 before it was even here, referring to the 2019 investments made in the digital infrastructure of the UA. “Three blended learning rooms, a recording and editing studio, upgrading the WIFI environment, investing in software and hardware for our lecturers and improving the outdoor facilities with electricity poles and better WIFI are some realizations we had planned before the pandemic hit us.” The UA is supported also by Dutch funding to upgrade their internet facilities. Mayerova van Veen affirms, “Digital transformation and blended learning were already on the 2019 agenda.”
For the year 2020, the budget had to be redone because government funding was decreased by 12.6 percent, and required investments in hardware and software were not always in line with the budget. Arens asserts, “Now we are discussing if this a temporary situation or will this be permanent, and which parts do we want to incorporate in future plans and how does that affect our strategic plans. We are in a very fluid situation.” The biggest planning for 2021 is the renovation of the Maria Convent, a next-door monumental building that will be used among others for housing laboratories for the Sustainable Island Solutions through science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (SISSTEM). “On the other side we will not be renting office spaces anymore, the focus is on the quality of the programs and the institutions itself.” Mayerova van Veen reveals, “For 2021 we have no idea what is possible from the government’s point of view, so how much money do we get but we also do not know for example how much we will be doing online and what is the financial impact. Longer term we still expect to some aspect to go back to normal or what that is supposed to be.” Most importantly is that UA is focusing on innovations and improvements and their goal is to be completely open about this by showing their spending into detail in the published annual report. Curious about the report, check: https://www.ua.aw/annual-reports. If you want to learn more about the University of Aruba and what we have to offer, hop in on our platform and connect with our staff and students: www.ua.aw.