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UWI Five Islands experiences financial surplus despite Covid-19, School of Science and Artificial Intelligence in the works

By Latrishka Thomas

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The University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus’ first year in operation has proven to be a resounding success despite the hurdles posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In fact, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI fourth landed campus Professor Densil Williams told listeners in yesterday’s Council meeting that the university has seen a surplus over the last year.

We have generated a very small surplus. So far, when we look at our operations, we are managing very well. We don’t have a cash flow problem, more than likely if we continue managing affairs…we are on track to also generate a surplus again.

In addition, Williams shared a long list of achievements that the university has seen since its establishment in September 2019.

He said that not only is the UWI the number one university in the Caribbean, but it is also within the top 4 percent of all globally competitive universities and “moved from number 42 in Latin America in just two years to number 18 in the rankings in Latin America.”

The Five Islands campus in particular saw an over 68 percent increase in students from 175 students in 2019 to now over 300.

“When we started, we had people from just a handful of countries being a part of us…today what our data is telling us is that we have people from as far as Nigeria,” Williams added.

The campus also established several governance committees and was able to deliver quality teaching and learning experiences despite being “thrown into a tailspin with the new normal that was brought on by the Covid pandemic.”

On the other hand, the number of staff at the university was reduced by 41 persons.

“We have looked at our organisational chart, we have looked at what we were presented with, and we have come together as a senior leadership and we have decided that given our resource constraint, we have to be very frugal and we have moved our staff count from over 153 to 112 because we have looked at it and seen where we can gain greater efficiencies from our operations,” the University Principal shared.

Meanwhile, the Pro Vice Chancellor announced that plans for an additional school are in place.

Presently the Five Islands Campus has three schools – the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Management and the School of Education.

But soon, a School of Science, Artificial Intelligence and Computing will be added offering degrees in animation, computing, robotics and other specialities not offered at any other UWI.

Williams disclosed that a team is also in discussion comprising of professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, members from Microsoft, and so on.

Furthermore, Williams shared some of their medium-term projects. Those include: land acquisition, building of kiosks, upgrade of sewage and electrical works, building of an administrative complex, and the building of dormitories.

Minister of Education Daryll Matthew spoke to the issue of land acquisition saying that, “A portion of the land has already been acquired by the government of Antigua and Barbuda and in due course will be transferred to the University for their architectural team to visit and to prepare the necessary drawings.

“We are currently at the point where we are having ongoing discussions with the property owners for the additional portion of lands, and that matter is now with the legal department and the legal team along with the planning officers withing the Ministry of Education in Antigua and Barbuda.”

He said that the discussions with the proprietors are in an advanced state, such that, “In short order, certainly withing the next week, a request will be taken to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda seeking formal permission to proceed with the acquisition.”

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