Principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Eudine Barriteau Tuesday night defended the university’s curriculum, stating that the tertiary institution was not simply a “degree mill”.
In an apparent response to recent criticisms levelled by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, Barriteau told the opening ceremony of the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park on University Drive that the university produced well-rounded graduates who are qualified to contribute meaningfully to national development.
“The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus is not a degree mill. When our students graduate, we intend for them to be self-aware, conscious, skilled, informed Caribbean and international citizens, ready for the global world,” the UWI principal said.
“The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus takes very seriously its responsibility to provide intellectual leadership grounded in integrity, commitment to Barbadian\Caribbean progress, a respect for transparency and good governance and a commitment to speaking truth to power wherever constellations of inequalities coalesce,” she added.
Back on March 10, Byer-Suckoo had said while delivering the Democratic Labour Party luncheon lecture at the party’s George Street, St Michael headquarters, that employers were complaining that graduates “come into the workforce with a piece of paper, but they do not know what to do”.
“We in the Ministry of Labour are trying to ensure that when they enter the workforce they hit the ground running,” Byer-Suckoo had said at the time.
However, Barriteau suggested this was exactly what UWI was doing, insisting the university was preparing “our citizens to be fully grounded in their unique history and ready to create solutions for contemporary challenges”.
The educator conceded that the pursuit of the university’s mission would not be easy, but it was determined to overcome any “temporary” crisis that confronted it.
The university has experienced a drop in enrolment since the Freundel Stuart administration imposed tuition fees on Barbadians in 2014, and Barriteau said earlier this month that Government still owed the Cave Hill campus about $200 million.
“When temporary crises arise we dust ourselves off, rise up and continue with the sacred mission to educate our students and citizens,” she said.
In paying tribute to South Africa’s first black president, in whose memory the park was built, Barriteau said Mandela had seen education “as a means of empowerment and that exclusion from education could limit individual and a society’s development”.
She added that the park would “always serve as a welcoming beacon to this institution and always symbolize a pathway to higher education”.
“I intend for the Mandela Freedom Park to function as a living symbol of our commitment to education, civic engagement and cultural renewal,” Barriteau said.