Some students at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus have questioned the practicality of the institution’s decision to open a fourth campus in St John’s Antigua.
While students unanimously agree the move would significantly improve access to education for Antiguans and citizens of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, many are hoping to see new academic offerings to attract a diverse pool of students from across the wider Caribbean.
“It seems as though it was the Antiguan Prime Minister who was really pushing for this initiative and I could understand why he would do something like that,” said Barbadian Devaron Bruce, a second-year Master of Philosophy (MPHIL) student majoring in Political Science.
Bruce told Barbados TODAY the move would yield economic benefits through increased commerce and would save Antiguans the high cost of regional travel. However, he suggested the move might go against the “principles of integration”. To remedy this, the student hoped to see degrees being offered in St John’s that aren’t offered at the other campuses.
“The issue is whether we can design a new campus that has the disciplines that Cave Hill, St. Augustine and Mona are not catering to. Given that our economies are really built in a similar way, I do not think that is going to be very likely. Only time will tell if that will be the case,” he said.
Ruthann Rivero, a Belizean pursuing a Master of Integration Studies noted the “obvious” benefits for Antigua, but argued the move could be detrimental to the Caribbean Community as a collective if the new campus failed to find its “niche”.
“When UWI was first envisioned, the various campuses specialized in various academic areas. Mona specialized in medicine, Trinidad in engineering and Barbados was the hub for law. With time, that has changed and everyone now doing a general thing,” said Rivero.
“If they [Antiguan campus] would look to specialize in something new, like Information Communication Technology (ICT), harness that and become the campus best known for ICT and innovation, then it could be beneficial for the region. It needs to find a niche -something different that has not been done and focus on that.”
Rivero added the haste to add a fourth campus was symptomatic of a bigger problem as regional leaders seemed unwilling to pursue integration to its fullest extent.
Meanwhile, Tristan Ward, a final year International Relations undergrad described the development as positive “by all standards” and argued that the new campus would provide “more room for integration”.
“Students have even more options in terms of which campus they can go to,” he argued, adding: “I don’t think there will be any questions about teaching standards at the new campus because UWI is known to uphold high standards across the board.
“I know the campuses have often represented strong points in certain subject areas…but I think for sometime those lines have been a bit blurred because we would see other campuses offering the same things,” said Ward.
Meanwhile, Tobagonian Avilona Arthur, also a final year student was critical of the additional campus.
“Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea because many of the students will likely stay in their comfort zones where it is affordable and accessible, reducing the diversity of other campuses, especially Cave Hill, where the Antiguan student population is very high,” said the Political Science and Law major.
Raychelle Rayburn, an Antiguan student said after completing her second year at Cave Hill, she did not intend to transfer to the new campus in St. John’s. She however lauded the venture as an inspiration for supporters of regional integration.
At a press conference on Wednesday, UWI’s Vice Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles announced the new campus would open its doors in September following a strong push by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.