Enrolment in the University of the West Indies Open Campus grew in the last academic year, according to its principal and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Dr Luz Longsworth, who declared the coronavirus pandemic had not disrupted the UWI online school.
She said the establishment of several “action plans” had also enabled the Open Campus to mitigate against any potential issues.
Dr Longsworth said: “As we all know COVID-19 hit us last year and the Open Campus was indeed seen as the campus for the times. As you can see we did not close our doors. We remained open and we had the experience to allow our students to continue seamlessly with their programmes and to support our sister campuses and our regional institutions.
“We developed our emergency management team, we developed a coronavirus-19 action plan, we moved very rapidly into home-based work arrangements in order to protect our staff and our students, but we did not remain insular or inward-looking. We reached out to help sister campuses and regional organizations to deliver online education which is our strength and we were able to use that strength to help others.”
The Open Campus catered to over 24,000 students across 17 Caribbean countries, with 812 graduates during the last academic year, according to UWI figures.
Dr Longsworth revealed that the institution had grown exponentially since its establishment in 2008, providing more than 80 online degrees, programmes, diplomas and certificates.
But speaking on the Open Campus’s financial situation, Dr Longsworth said the university faced challenges in collecting student fees, Government receivables and outstanding amounts owed to the campus.
She said the Open Campus also had to increase its short-term financing over the COVID period.
It was revealed that $58.8 million was owed to the institution at the end of 2020, which amounted to just over two and a half years of budgeted contributions.
Despite that, Dr Longsworth said over the past 10 years the Open Campus had never spent what it had budgeted for.
She said: “We’ve basically been at the same level of expenditure for 10 years. I’m not sure how many organizations could have tripled their enrollment and more and still maintain the spend and this is a testimony to the spend of the staff of the Open Campus and the students who also contribute to their tuition and those governments who have supported