May 19, 2015
UWI Open Campus in SVG to receive major upgrade

Facilities at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will soon receive a major upgrade to include facilities that will better serve its increasing numbers of students.

Last Friday, UWI officials in the region{{more}} and representatives from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Canadian government gathered in St Vincent and the Grenadines to launch their collaborative project for the Open Campus development.

Through this project, it is hoped that the Open Campus facilities in SVG and St Lucia will be modernized to better serve the increasing number of students enrolling at the institutions.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves delivered the feature address at Friday’s event.

Giving a brief history of the Open Campus facility, the Prime Minister noted that a cotton ginnery was once located on the site. However, it was destroyed in 1960 by a fire.

In a comparison to that small agro processing enterprise, Gonsalves noted that the UWI Open Campus has now become a factory that outputs education.

“This facility is going to be about 24,000 square feet of floor space. So that’s significantly larger than what we have and at some appropriate time we will get the details,” he told persons present at the ceremony.

Gonsalves revealed that two Vincentian professionals, architect Trevor Thompson and engineer Glenford Stewart, have been earmarked to take on the project.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the Richmond Hill area, where the Open Campus is located, is already booming with educational facilities, including three secondary schools, two primary schools, the curriculum development unit and the public library, which is also home to the Archives and Documentation centre.

“I have to say I would like to see something additional in the project than what we have at the moment. If the Canadian government is interested in partnering further…and I’m sure the CDB would not mind putting a pot of money from which we can borrow to put science laboratories for Biology, Chemistry and Physics, to supplement what we have at the Community College,” Gonsalves suggested.

Michelle Cross-Fenty, director of projects at CDB, observed that access to higher education has enabled many persons in lower socio-economic conditions to gain the necessary knowledge and skills needed to elevate themselves out of poverty.

This, she said, is one of the reasons that the CDB has chosen to be a part of this project.

Cross-Fenty indicated that the project is part of the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan of the UWI. Also, she noted that the reconstruction of the Open Campus site will include the redevelopment of the student activity centre; learning and common rooms; a library; an administrative block, which will include multimedia training rooms to facilitate local and remote interactions; two computer labs; and a tele-video conferencing room. Facilities will also include a specialized office centre block to accommodate visiting academics, a day care centre and green space.

“These will be constructed with energy efficiency optimizing measures, including solar photovoltaic systems, which will yield economic as well as environmental benefits,” she said.

“Demand for quality tertiary education is high and hence the central role for the Open Campus and the premier tertiary institution. Increasingly, not only are more secondary school graduates meeting the matriculation requirements for entry into tertiary education, but more professionals and workers in general are retooling to enhance their productivity levels and promotion prospects. This demand validates the investment being made through this project with enrollment increasing from 24 students in 2008 to over 526 in 2014. This is a reflection of new programmes offered as a direct response to labour market needs and the demand for certification for career enhancement.”

In brief remarks, principal and pro vice-chancellor of the UWI Open Campus Dr Luz Longsworth stated that the open campuses across the region were developed to meet the needs of person seeking higher education in the countries that were underserved by the university.

According to Longsworth, this project, which will see the redevelopment of the Open Campus sites in St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia, will result in modernized facilities that will provide the people with a locus for learning.

“Recognizing that higher education is rapidly changing, the UWI, through its Open Campus, has begun a transformative process that will mesh together our virtual and physical presence to bring UWI to you,” she said.

“We know that Caribbean people, although we have online instruction, like to have a place where they can meet and that is what this site will do. It will be a meeting place for Caribbean people. A meeting place for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines to meet, to learn and to excel.”

Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados and the OECS Richard Hanley also delievered brief remarks. He noted that through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), Canada has contributed over CAD$96 million through three projects for the development and administering of higher education for the Caribbean.(BK)