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EDITORIAL- Sprucing up Mona

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

It is unlikely there will have been any significant rebalancing of enrolment by Jamaican students to the University of the West Indies (UWI) since our observation last year that the bulk of them were in the humanities and education, while only a handful graduated in the technological subjects that are critical to a modern economy.

Many at the university, particularly at the Mona campus, perhaps found our series irritating, trespassing, as it did, on old certitudes and calling for a shift in the way that things have been done forever.

Change, after all, is never easy.

Nonetheless, there are signs that our message may not have gone totally unnoticed and that we might have encouraged those at Mona who believed that embracing new ideas and new ways did not have to be at the expense of UWI's deserved, and jealously guarded, reputation as an academic institution of quality. We see hope, of all places, in a calendar - the one issued by Mona for 2010.

Practical application

There is not in this calendar the sense, as has been the case for a long time, that over 70 per cent of the Jamaican graduates of UWI are in the humanities and education, and that less than one per cent left with degrees in engineering. The latter figure might be considered an undercount as it does not include the 10 per cent of students educated at the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences.

In a seeming concession to the marketers and those who wish to point potential students to areas apart from the time-honoured faculties and departments, this calendar highlights, using real students, areas of study with specific and practical economic application.

Matthew Myrie, an undergraduate in the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, who is studying electronic engineering, for instance, highlights the month of January. On graduation, we are advised, students like Mr Myrie "will be technically competent for employment in the fields of telecommunications or industrial instrumentations", armed with the capacity to, among other things, "solve electronic engineering problems".

Commercial creativity

Among the other interesting portrayals is Richard Sutherland, who is pursuing a degree in business, economics and social statistics. Pin-striped, armed with a BlackBerry and to the backdrop of online FX trading data, young Mr Sutherland is a model for the new market environment, rather than the perception of UWI economists as people steeped in academia and lacking in commercial creativity.

None of this means, or ought to imply, that UWI has, or should, ditch 'traditions' or leave behind its embrace of the full spectrum of academia. Rather, it is the hallmark of the good academic that, having acquired knowledge, does not cling to that information regardless.

Good academies like the UWI at Mona, even if they sometimes have to be nudged, are always testing current theses, formulating new ideas and delivering new constructs. Their ultimate concern is the betterment of the individuals and societies for, and in which, they exist.

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