UWI open campus making mark on Caribbean higher education
Described as the best-kept secret in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean, the 10-year-old University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC) has been quietly making an indelible mark on the region's tertiary-education landscape.
Its precursor, the Extra Mural Campus, was established in 1948, the same year as the University of the West Indies (originally University College of the West Indies), and later renamed the School of Continuing Studies.
Registrar of the UWIOC, Karen Ford-Warner, said that the institution's genesis was the result of advocacy from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and others, who wanted to have a campus that catered to the needs of their communities.
She said that the visionary who established the UWI 70 years ago realised from the beginning that the institution had to be about outreach.
"It was not only about the landed campuses such as those in Jamaica, Barbados, or Trinidad and Tobago, but it was also about ensuring that the university has an impact on everyone in the contributing countries and that we were able to contribute to intellectual discourse, development, and cultural explosion, which have been taking place in the region from 1948," Ford-Warner explained.
UWIOC, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, offers a wide range of attractive options for academic progress, lifelong learning, and career development in a variety of formats and modes of delivery under the motto 'Online, on-site, on demand'.
Approximately 50 online courses and degree programmes are accessible to individuals in 17 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean.
There are 40 physical locations operating in these countries, with 11 in Jamaica.
The courses offered online and on-site range from pre-university to doctoral.
They include Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) courses, professional intensive (short) courses; one-year management and one-year professional courses, undergraduate degree programmes, postgraduate diplomas, master's programmes, and doctor of education programmes.
Programmes offered are relevant and designed to meet the needs of individual learner
Registrar of the University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC) Karen Ford-Warner says that the programmes offered there are relevant and are designed to meet the needs of the individual learner.
She noted: "we tend to have a more mature student population. The median age of the students is in the mid-30s age group, who have a family, who have a career but want a way to be able to advance their professional and personal development, so they come looking for courses that are relevant to their lives such as management, business, and education courses.
"We have also expanded the suite of offerings to areas such as social work, youth development, and early childhood education," she added.
Ford-Warner says that learners are given the opportunity to decide how they want to pursue their studies, whether to pay per credit, or take two or up to five courses per year.
"We allow you to really organise your life and manage your finances to fit your pocket," she points out.
The UWIOC also employs the "laddering" method, which enables learners, for example, persons who complete studies at a diploma level, to return when they are ready to gain additional certification and also move up to the bachelor's level or beyond.
"We allow our students to start from where they are and then take them to where they want to be. We try to ensure that we are speaking, listening, marketing, and meeting the needs of our clients," Ford-Warner said.
She said that the institution is moving forward under the UWI's 2017-2022 strategic plan and is being guided by the triple 'A' strategy that is focused on expanding access to tertiary education, aligning of industry and academia for wealth creation and distribution, and agility to global opportunity.
"One of the most exciting developments are plans to offer our courses beyond our Caribbean shores to an international market," Ford-Warner said.
She added: "The vision of the Vice Chancellor, Hilary Beckles, is to have a UWI presence on every continent. Today, we have a joint institute with the State University of New York (SUNY) and joint programmes with universities in Nigeria and China.
"Our focus is being able to provide opportunities for our Caribbean nationals as a Caribbean university with a global reach. We endeavour to find ways to make meaningful contributions to Caribbean development."