KINGSTON, Jamaica — The next phase of the implementation of The UWI’s Triple A Strategy (Strategic Plan 2017-2022) focuses on the development of a new Global Online Campus, leveraging the high reputation of the regional university. This new Global Online Campus will build capacity and generate revenue as a core part of the University’s financial future.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) made the announcement during a virtual media engagement. The one-on-one conversation with Vice-Chancellor Beckles followed a retreat of The UWI’s Senior Executive Management Team, which focused on the mid-term review of the University’s current five-year strategic plan.
The plan identifies the digital transformation of the 72-year-old university as a key strategic objective. However, for more than a decade, The UWI has been making significant investment in the resources and development of online delivery through its Open Campus which was established in 2008. As part of its Smart Campus Initiative, The UWI, Cave Hill has also enabled training of lecturers in online pedagogy and the use of smart technology and virtual learning tools, ushering in the direction and expansion for this next phase.
The UWI, now representing the region in the digital/tech space is positioned to leverage this opportunity as a revenue base for the region; foreign exchange earnings; the internationalisation of Caribbean higher education sector and promotion of the Caribbean on world stage following the global market model adopted for the Caribbean’s tourism and petrochemical industries.
Vice-Chancellor Beckles reported that when The UWI transitioned to emergency remote teaching and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic—which accelerated its strategic intentions— executive management realised that the institution had risen to embrace technology relatively smoothly. “Despite the suffering and harm that the virus brought to our society, it represented a backwind for us to go forward into the future aggressively. Technology has liberated us through its application over the past couple months. We can now see clearly what the next step has to be, the transformation of our online capability. We have fully embraced the remote online academic culture and can see the way forward with a global online campus with 50,000-100,000 global self-funding students by 2022. We have to convert, upgrade and develop this online capacity which we now have. The infrastructure of our Open Campus has provided the University with a head start. We have to follow the logic to allow online remote teaching and capability to go global even more aggressively. We have gone through the research and concluded that the next step is our Global Online Campus.”
He explained that the new Global Online Campus dovetails with the University’s successful global strategy. Since the start of the Triple A Strategy, The UWI has effectively established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. These partnerships include the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ); The UWI-University of Havana Centre for Sustainable Development; The UWI-Coventry Institute for Industry-Academic Partnership with the University of Coventry; the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of Glasgow; and a research centre with the European University Institute (EUI).
Beckles also alluded that expansion into Australia is on the horizon for The UWI which is currently recognised as number one in the Caribbean by Times Higher Education and has been consistently ranked among the best in the world for the past three years. Earlier this year the international rankings agency also placed The UWI in the top 1 percent of its Golden Age University Rankings (the best universities established for more than 50 years, but less than 80 years).
Referring to the “reputation revolution” that the institution now enjoys, he said, “Our reputation is an asset and the top universities in the world want to work with us.” He stated also that by the end of the current strategic plan, in the next two to three years, The UWI will be ready to leverage its technological capacity, global status and high reputation to pursue a target of 50,000-100,000 students for UWI Global Online. “We are 75 percent towards the attainment of this” he said, noting the focus now on converting its reputation to revenue.
During the Senior Executive Management Team’s retreat, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs and Principal of the Open Campus, Dr. Luz Longsworth emphasised the need to capitalise on the University’s current position to drive recruitment for international students. The new UWI Global Campus will serve as part of the University’s international agenda allowing The UWI to access the world student market, via global recruitment and leveraging the institution’s One UWI brand in this space.