Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 30th 2015 Contents SUNDAY 30TH AUGUST, 2015 -- UWI TODAY 5
Caribbean V-C's Democratic Vision
at home and abroad
Sir Hilary Beckles tells Ellie Bothwell about his plans for e University of the West Indies' future
BY ELLIE BOTHWELL
is July 9, 2015 article was reproduced with permission from the Times Higher Education weekly magazine published in the UK. e following is the on-line reference:
As higher education jobs go, leading an institution spread
across the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados and
Trinidad sounds like a dream opportunity.
But as the newly appointed vice-chancellor of e
University of the West Indies knows full well, it doesn't come
without its challenges.
During his inaugural address as leader on 1 May, a er
36 years in various roles at the university, Sir Hilary Beckles
announced that one of his main goals was to re- establish
the institution as one integrated university.
"Our UWI must more than ever function and operate
as one; not four separate universities but one indivisible
academy. To this restoration of the singularity of our
university, my colleagues and I are committed," he said.
Speaking to Times Higher Education, Sir Hilary said
that by making each campus as "responsive as possible to its
immediate environment", the university "might have gone
too far in giving [them] too much autonomy. We might have
to do some rebalancing."
He sums up the challenge by reciting a "mischievous
joke" told by Eric Williams, the former prime minister of
Trinidad and Tobago, following the country's withdrawal
from the West Indies Federation.
"He said: 'What God has put asunder, let no man put
together.' So in some ways we are ghting God, but we will
put [the university] together."
UWI was established in 1948 as a college of the
University of London and started out with one campus,
Mona, in Jamaica. Fi een years later, the university gained
independent degree-granting powers as the "winds of
change" blew through the region.
Two more campuses were built: St Augustine in
Trinidad and Tobago and Cave Hill in Barbados.
Historically, each campus specialised in a di erent
subject -- originally medicine, engineering or law -- but all
three now o er a wide range of courses.
"As the economies of the region went deeper into
recession, students found it di cult to pay for travel and
housing costs away from home," Sir Hilary said.
"Our vision is no matter where you are in the Caribbean,
the UWI is on your doorstep. We want to give every citizen
democratic and equal access."
Around 90 per cent of students at the Mona and St
Augustine campuses are residents of their parent islands,
while the gure is around 70 per cent at Cave Hill.
However, despite the university's regional focus,
Sir Hilary said the Caribbean had the lowest percentage
of citizens enrolled in higher education in the Western
hemisphere, while the English-speaking islands have the
lowest enrolment rates within the Caribbean.
" is is disturbing, especially when we recognise that
a country's potential for sustainable economic development
is linked directly to the number of citizens who have been
in higher education," he said.
"So we've grown the university considerably in the past
10 to 15 years. You can very well imagine the economic
environment is not very conducive to that."
It is this growth that in 2008 led to the launch of
the university's Open Campus, which now has nearly 50
learning centres scattered across 17 countries in the English-
Sir Hilary's main area of focus is to double the number
of students enrolling in science and technology courses to
about 40 per cent of the total population. is will, in part,
involve encouraging more men to enrol for degree study. e
university's student cohort is presently 70 per cent women.
Another major part of the university's growth strategy
is to "globalise in a much more aggressive fashion" by
increasing its international student cohort to 20 per cent
from its current 10 per cent.
Sir Hilary said it will develop a science and technology
centre in China in collaboration with an existing institution;
create joint colleges in parts of North America where there
are large Caribbean communities; and collaborate with "one
or two British universities" on a course in Caribbean studies.
ese will be forged by building partnerships rather than
He admitted that although the university had not
previously created the kind of international collaborations
now common among leading higher education institutions
across the world, globalisation was certainly not a new
concept for UWI or the Caribbean.
"I can think of no other part of the world with as deep
a global penetration of the economy as the Caribbean," Sir
Hilary, a historian by training, said.
"Five hundred years ago, Columbus arrived here
and that brought Europe, Africa and later Asia into the
Caribbean. So historically you can say the Caribbean is the
world's rst global community. We were built that way and
we can capitalise on that."
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