By Shermain Bique-Charles
The fourth landed campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) at Five Islands in Antigua is being tipped to have a similar socio-cultural impact as the other campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, despite the obvious differences in its make-up.
Historically, the Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses have contributed significantly to the development of young Caribbean nationals, through rich campus culture and engagement on social issues.
However, with the student complement at The UWI Five Islands being significantly smaller than the others, and the focus on digitalisation taking away from in-person interaction, it would appear that “campus life”, which played a huge role in the development of the other three campuses, cannot be replicated in the Antigua-based university.
But such is not the case, according to Cave Hill alumni, Ambassador Dorbrene O’Marde, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary with responsibility for Antigua and Barbuda Reparation Justice Programme, who maintains that the Five Islands campus is a work in progress.
“Cave Hill was absolutely no different. The campus was just a couple of overseas students and the majority were part time Barbadian students. They were part time, they were teachers, they were working in the civil service and so there was a campus life in that sense, but it took time,” he said.
Ambassador O’Marde further explained that during his time at Cave Hill, campus life began to develop against the backdrop of Pan-Africanism and with a focus, too, on Regionalism. The same, he reiterated, is possible for Five Islands, albeit in a different context.
“My years at Cave Hill, a lot of that was dedicated to forming astudent concept,” he said.
As far as alumni is concerned, the other three UWI landed campuses boast a ‘who’s who’ of Caribbean icons to include PJ Patterson and Derek Walcott at Mona; Owen Arthur and Dr Keith Mitchell at Cave Hill; to Dr Keith Rowley and David Granger at St Augustine.
Reflecting on the impact of the alumni on his development, O’Marde noted that UWI graduates could also have a role to play in cultivating that culture at The UWI Five Islands.
The UWI Five Islands officially opened in September 2019 offering a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.