UWI to engage in cross campus teaching
The seeming lack of integration among the student body at the four campuses of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is being addressed by the leadership of the regional institution.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI vice-chancellor, has instituted what he calls the One UWI Task Force, a body set up to investigate whether or not the fragmentation of the different campuses affects the bottom line of the university. The task force has been mandated to carry out a financial,operational and sociological study which will address issues of integration across the campuses.
Even as the task force conducts its study, Beckles has instructed the campus principals to ensure that they find ways to improve the diversity of their individual campuses. He has set a target of 60 per cent local, 30 per cent regional and 10 per cent international for the composition of the student body.
"To what extent is the UWI truly a regional university, we are concerned about that and we are trying to turn around the tendency towards fragmentation and the tendency towards each campus becoming too national a campus as opposed to a regional campus," he said.
Beckles also disclosed that foundation courses will now be taught by lecturers from other campuses.
"Going forward, all students from all campuses must receive some teaching from another campus ...we are starting with the foundation courses. We are assigning a foundation course to each campus," he said.
The Mona campus in Jamaica will be assigned to deliver the economics, society and governance course to the other campuses, the Cave Hill campus in Barbados will teach the Caribbean civilisation course, and the St Augustine campus in Trinidad has been assigned science and technology.
"For the first time, we will be entering an environment where cross-campus teaching will become the norm," the vice-chancellor said.
According to Beckles, more resources will be allocated to move students around the different campuses so that they have a more regional experience. "The future of the university depends on it," he said.
When asked if the perceived weakness at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) level contributed to the lack of integration among the campuses, Beckles was adamant that it is the outlook of citizens that needs to be addressed.
"I think the economic recession of the last 15 to 20 years has had an impact...in such an environment the tendency might very well be for each society to look more closely as its own base, but I do not believe that CARICOM is a weak institution...there is no doubt that we are seeing some challenge with regional consciousness, but that does not begin with CARICOM, it begins with all of us. Caribbean citizens on the whole are not...pursuing a regional lifestyle...so it is not the institutions called CARICOM and UWI, but it is how the citizens are looking at their own survival within the different countries," he said.