Fri | Feb 26, 2021

UWI targets 100,000 online students

Published:Friday | November 13, 2020 | 12:19 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies.

Thrust into full remote learning with the onset of COVID-19 in March, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has cast the crisis as a game-changer that has accelerated the strategic plan to reach 100,000 students in the global online market.

In a discussion with regional journalists on a range of local and international issues on Thursday, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor, said that with the technology now in place, The UWI is projecting that it will engage at least 50,000 global online students by 2023 when the university celebrates its 75th anniversary.

The UWI established an Open Campus 10 years ago with the objective of tapping students across the entire region and beyond. At present, about 8,000 students are enrolled in The UWI’s Open Campus remotely accessing academic content.

Sir Hilary told journalists it was ironic that despite the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has caused many, including institutions like The UWI, to “realise that the world is changing rapidly, and we have to get with it”.

“We are able to do in two months what we have been trying to do in 10 years,” he said.

NOT GOING BACK

Declaring that the university was “going full throttle ahead with technology”, Beckles divulged that some of the finest universities around the world wanted to work with The UWI.

“We have embraced the future. We have embraced the technology. We are not going back. This is it. This is the new normal,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sir Hilary said that The UWI had established a centre in China, with the first cohort of software technology engineering students now back in the island after completing their studies.

There are two centres in Africa: one at the University of Lagos and the other at the University of Johannesburg.

“We made such a phenomenal investment in African liberation. We made such a great investment in the bringing down of apartheid in South Africa and the liberation of Angola and Mozambique.

“The process is complete now, but we have to stay in there. We cannot walk away from it. So the African governments and civil societies are saying, ‘No, you, the Caribbean people, must be a relevant part of our future because we are free and independent largely due to your support’.”

Beckles said that The UWI has also established centres in New York and Bogota, Colombia, where efforts are being made to bridge the gap between the Caribbean and Latin America.

Sir Hilary said that The UWI is also in dialogue with the Australian government to establish a centre in that country that will offer short online courses in Caribbean culture, art, and music.

Looking ahead, Sir Hilary said that The UWI would revert to a significant measure of face-to-face learning when the pandemic has passed, with the projections of vaccines by 2021-22.

However, he asserted that even after COVID-19 was no longer a factor, The UWI would continue to deliver its programmes in dual mode: face-to-face and online.

He said that as part of its strategic plan going forward, the university would convert its phenomenal global reputation into revenue in order to sustain the institution’s financial operation.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com