Its’ official. Antigua and Barbuda is the fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
UWI Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles told a news conference Wednesday that the Chancellor Robert Bermudez and Council of the UWI “have formally approved the establishment of a campus of the University of the West Indies in Antigua and Barbuda.”
He said that the approval came “within the wider context of the country’s membership of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)”.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the announcement as “a very proud moment for the government and people of Antigua”.
Sir Hilary said that the Five Islands campus will serve the development needs of Antigua and Barbuda as well as the wider OECS sub-region that includes Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis and Montserrat.
“In addition to serving the special developmental needs of Antigua and Barbuda it will provide a hub to enable the greater participation in the development agendas of the OECS by the University of the West Indies.
“Fine public universities, such as the University of the West Indies are not designed or funded to serve themselves. Their mandate is to serve all sections of the communities that support them,” he added.
Antigua and Barbuda joins, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados where the UWI has landed campuses.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Browne, said the three campus countries which had concerns about the fourth landed campus have now been satisfied.
“You know there are three countries who had reservations, those reservations have been lifted,” he said.
The government has in the past said it would fund the university by a windfall tax on financial institutions and by diverting some funding to the prime minister’s scholarship programme.
Sir Hilary told reporters that the landed campus service had been enhanced by the digital and open presence of the Open Campus “that has since been a lifeline for thousands of citizens in underserved communities across our archipelago
“The OECS, however, has remained a part of our family that is in urgent need of the services long considered the norm in sister countries that have had the financial resources to fund landed campuses.
Sir Hilary said that while in recent years, the OECS has registered among the highest rates of economic growth across the region “the University of the West Indies has remained dissatisfied with the level of its contribution to the development of the higher education sector and professional training in that community.
“The OECS registers the lowest rates of youth tertiary education enrolment in the entire Caribbean and indeed the hemisphere. This unacceptable circumstance is reflected in some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the Caribbean”.
The Vice-Chancellor said as a result, they constitute a real threat to sustained development in the region and with UWI long concerned about the situation “welcomes this glorious moment that provides it with an opportunity for corrective action.
He recalled that in 2017, the UWI Council received a presentation by Antigua and Barbuda “calling for a 21st century fit fir purpose campus to promote national and sub regional economic and social development with a focus on the robust expansion of its social capital”.
He said the Council established a task force to conduct a feasibility study and in its report submitted in March this year “recommended the creation of a campus, designed specifically to meet the needs of Antigua and Barbuda and the OECS sub-region on the basis of projected financial feasibility.
“Critically, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, provided the task force with financial data and evidence of its policy intent, illustrating its ability to meet the financial operations of the campus,” he said, adding that the report recommended to Council, the establishment of the campus within defined guidelines outlined for program and facilities development.
Sir Hilary said that the Five Islands Campus will begin by admitting its first cohort of some 800 students in September this year, adding that the majority of those students are already registered in levels 1 and 2 of The University of the West Indies programmes currently being delivered in Antigua under a franchise agreement at the Antigua State Community College, and other tertiary Institutions.
“These students, will be invited to transition over to the Five Islands Campus. This is an historic moment in the development of the Caribbean community, in Antigua and Barbuda, the OECS, and for The University of the West Indies that is committed to serving the needs of its chartered members, and the entire region.”
Sir Hilary said that like its sister campuses, the Five Islands Campus will begin in a modest fashion, and will no doubt soar to magnificent heights in the years to come.
“It’s a future to be crafted by us all. In this regard we urge the region to embrace this youngest sibling of The UWI, in much the same way that you have developed and celebrated other campuses. This is why The UWI has become the number one ranked University in the Caribbean,” he added.