By Orville Williams
All the necessary accommodations have been put in place for the upcoming academic year at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus, according to Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.
Addressing the media at a press conference yesterday afternoon, Professor Beckles sought to reassure the public of the readiness of the campus, its faculty and academic programmes.
He also urged Antiguans and Barbudans to make full use of this valuable opportunity.
“Make sure that in every household in these two islands, in this nation state, at least one person finds their way into Five Islands within this coming year”, he appealed.
The campus, which will ‘go live’ in the first week of September, will offer programmes from three initial schools: the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences; the School of Management, Sciences and Technology; and the School of Humanities and Education.
Approximately 200 students are expected to enroll for the first semester, with an additional 200-300 expected in the second semester.
Professor Beckles spoke candidly on the current low proportion of university graduates in the OECS, saying, “In the English-speaking Caribbean, we have the lowest enrollment in higher education in this entire hemisphere.”
He then expressed his anticipation that the Five Islands campus will serve as a catalyst for the sub-region, ‘raising the bar’ in that regard.
The campus will be led by Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Stafford Griffith, who will be in charge for the first school year, after which, Beckles says, applications will be invited for the permanent post.
“Our principal has been appointed for one year, because that is the norm. Within the year, we advertise the position for the long-term principal of Five Islands and that job will be advertised regionally and internationally,” he explained.
Sir Hilary also anticipates that the long-term principal for Five Islands will be the person to “take the campus to a higher level in the years ahead.”
Speaking on the growth of UWI, Professor Beckles explained that the university is currently in a state of continuous evolution.
“It is the fourth of the landed campuses and our fifth campus, as we transition the UWI from the traditional 20th Century university that you are all familiar with, into the development of a 21st Century UWI system.”
“The UWI system includes not only our four campuses and our online Open Campus, but now we have UWI centres and institutes all over the world. We have [centres] in New York, Canada, Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria) and Suzhou (China)”, he said.
Sir Hilary also highlighted a new initiative the university will be launching. “This coming academic year, we will be rolling out “UWI Global”, which is a strategy to place dozens of our programmes online [for] students all over the world.”
The Five Islands Campus is meant to serve as a “hub for the OECS”, promoting the pursuit of higher education within the sub-region.
Professor Beckles disclosed that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Rosa Greenaway, will act as the government’s liaison on matters relating to the Five Islands campus.