Theme “Opening Doors to Life Changing Learning”
Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Barbados. Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus Council Chair, Ambassador Dr June Soomer, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal, Dr Luz Longsworth were among the speakers at the annual meeting of the Campus Council held on March 27, 2018 at the Starfish Jolly Beach Resort in Antigua and Barbuda. Lending lustre to the proceedings was the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Rodney Williams who attended with his wife, Lady Williams.
Campus Councils are an integral part of the Governance structure of The University of the West Indies. A fundamental aspect of the accountability of The UWI is this annual meeting in which, among other things, Academic Board representatives, Guild representatives as well as Campus and University Executive Management, report on academic and curriculum updates; changing statistics on students with regard to enrolment and graduate throughput; staffing issues and strategic initiatives undertaken.
The meeting reviewed the Open Campus' performance over the last academic year as well as the Financial Report for the year ending July 31st, 2017, through the presentation of the 2016/2017 Annual and Departmental Reports.
Celebrating 10 Years of Success - Open Campus 2008-2018
“Opening Doors to Life Changing Learning” was the overarching theme of the Annual and Departmental reports with Principal Longsworth taking the opportunity to reflect upon the historic 10 year milestone that the Open Campus, as the 4th Campus of The UWI had achieved. Dr Longsworth thanked those who had laid the foundation for the success of the Open Campus over the past decade, including former Principals, Professor Emerita Dr Hazel Simmons McDonald and Professor V. Eudine Barriteau, former Deputy Principal, Professor Emerita Vivienne Roberts and former Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, Professor E. Nigel Harris. Tribute was also paid to recently retired Chancellor Emeritus Sir George Alleyne and to the late Sir Dwight Venner, who served as Campus Council Chair from inception until his death in December 2016.
A warm welcome was given to recently installed Chancellor Robert Bermudez as well as to Ambassador Dr June Soomer who, in an historic first, presided over the meeting as the first woman to sit as Council Chair at The UWI.
An appraisal of the Campus’s performance in the 2016/2017 Academic Year followed. Major highlights included doubled enrolment figures in online programmes over the past decade (from 3674 in 2008 to 6733 in 2017); with Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) course numbers for 2016/2017 peaking at a total of 9685 students. In an era of reduced government contributions to The UWI, this has allowed for 56% of the Campus’s budget to be generated from tuition fees, providing much support in a time of tight fiscal space, as well as a degree of self-sustainability.
Much of the growth recorded was attributed to the sterling support provided by the Canadian Government funded programme, Strengthening Distance Education in the Caribbean (SDEC), which provided a much needed injection of capital into the Open Campus (CND 31 million dollars) allowing for the development of 155 new and revised online courses, 44 new CPE programmes, upgraded technology, staff training, upgraded Sites, and an agile Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System.
Contributions from the Deputy Principal Professor Julie Meeks, Mrs Karen Lequay, Campus Librarian, Dr Denise Gaspard-Richards, Director of Academic Programming and Development (APAD), Mr Lincoln Williams, Director of the Consortium for Social Development and Research (CSDR) and Dr Francis Severin, Director of the Open Campus Country Sites (OCCS) made for a comprehensive report, with each focusing on the specific contributions of their department to the overall growth and development of the Open Campus over the past year.
Open Campus Strategic Initiatives 2017-2022
The climax of the report was a focus on future plans and on the Open Campus’s strategic efforts to drive a new era of online education in the Caribbean in collaboration with sister campuses and The UWI Office of Online Learning (OOL). High on the agenda was the offering of courses specifically tailored towards revitalising Caribbean development such as the Transformational Leadership and NGO Professional Management Certificates.
Key to this future focus is the development of a Virtual International Student Office (VISO) to assist with plans to market internationally, in the first instance, a BSc in Youth Development Work and an MSc in Instructional Design and Technology. Internationalisation efforts are also well developed with plans to deliver the online courses Values Based Cultural Heritage Management, Culture of Rastafari, and Transformational Leadership to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals as early as the 2018/2019 academic year.
Global partnerships such as the landmark collaboration with the State University of New York (SUNY) to offer a Certificate and MSc in Leadership and Sustainable Development, as well as a joint Early Childhood programme were also highlighted. Still other strategic initiatives highlighted for the 2017-2022 academic period included robust expansion of Continuing and Professional Education programmes, strengthening student support services, investing in developing an engaged and motivated team, establishing Centres of Excellence in ICT Education, training for regional security forces, and the expansion of online programmes in collaboration with sister campuses.
The Open Campus - Our Vehicle to the Future
The Leadership team’s in-depth, comprehensive and impactful presentation was followed by a ringing endorsement from Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles who congratulated Dr Longsworth on delivering “a detailed and very inspiring report”.
He remarked that while it could be argued that our landed campuses are fast approaching their maximum capacity in terms of carrying ability, “the outer parameter of the Open Campus is far beyond the horizon”. Referring to the Principal’s analogy of the Open Campus as a drone that delivers life-changing experiences all across the world, the critical role of the Open Campus, especially in the OECS, was emphasised.Vice-ChancellorBeckles lamented that the OECS was in a very “dark and difficult place in respect of enrolment in higher education” quoting data from UNESCO which revealed that amongst the 18-39 age cohort , the OECS had the lowest enrolment figures in the entire southern hemisphere.
“We support wholeheartedly the Open Campus as our vehicle to the future” said Vice-Chancellor Beckles.“The Open Campus is the one that will bring equity to the region, justice to the most remote communities, justice to persons who as youth could not participate in higher education but who, as adults would wish to circle and return, to build their own futures and to have that life changing experience”
The Open Campus was further lauded by the Vice Chancellor as having built, through its actions on the ground post hurricanes Irma and Maria, “a culture of care”. He went on to reiterate his support of the theme of the meeting with the Annual and Departmental Reports touted as evidence that the Open Campus had wholeheartedly embracedThe UWI’s Triple A Strategy to become “a champion of access, a champion of agility and a champion of alignment.”
To view the live-stream of the 2016/ 2017 Open Campus Council Meeting please click on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bF4Z-RW4_M&t=25s
The full text of the Principal’s Annual Report can be found at: http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/docs/Open_Campus_Annual-Report-2016-2017.pdf
Photo caption: Left to right seated at the Council Meeting head table are: Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Open Campus, Dr. Luz Longsworth, Open Campus Council Chair, Ambassador Dr. June Soomer, Campus Registrar, Open Campus, Mrs. Karen Ford-Warner and Deputy Principal, Open Campus, Professor Julie Meeks.