If things go according to plan, The UWI Open Campus will be transformed into The UWI Global Campus later this year.
That is the word from Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, in his address to the Open Campus’ Annual Council Meeting held on Friday, 18 March 2022, online.
“We are not creating a new campus. We have a campus called the Open Campus, which is globally accredited and living within a world of great respect,” Sir Hilary stated. “We are rebranding this Campus.”
The Vice-Chancellor expressed, “the external reviews of the Open Campus over the years have been emphasising that the time has come for this Campus to transition to embrace global online delivery in a more profound way. In effect, what we are doing is implementing some of the recommendations embedded in the reviews of the Open Campus.”
“The movement from Open to Global, which represents a name change in the first instance, is not the creation of a new campus,” Vice-Chancellor Beckles emphasised.
The UWI Head said the content and current context are ideally suited to make the transition. He stressed that the University will use the skills and the experience embedded in the Open Campus to generate earnings and to use UWI’s regional success to promote global success.
“We hope to deliver 20 to 30 taught masters programmes to the world. Some of the programmes already exist, some of them would have to be created, but we believe that the world is waiting,” the regional academic noted.
Open Campus Council Chair Ambassador Dr the Honourable June Soomer expressed similar sentiments. Dr Soomer noted that plans have commenced for the repurposing of the Open Campus into the Global Campus. Dr Soomer expressed thanks to the Vice-Chancellor for leading what she termed the next evolution of the Open Campus into the Global Campus. “The UWI, by repositioning this campus to continue online delivery all across the region, while also meaningfully increasing our online offerings to international audiences, hopes to significantly increase revenues,” the Campus Council Chair noted.
Dr Soomer expressed optimism that “through the creation of a Global Campus, The UWI would become a major player in the online education marketplace by offering flexible and highly attractive educational offerings to the Caribbean Diaspora and mainstream markets across the world.”
Repurposing of the Open Campus
Interim Principal of the Open Campus, Dr Francis Severin delivered the Campus Annual Report under the theme “Repurposing for a Global Future.” In his report, Dr Severin chronicled the many achievements of the Campus over the 2020-2021 Academic Year. The report he said, “demonstrated how the Open Campus has had its finest moments in helping Caribbean people to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and how the Campus responded to the volcanic eruption in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
“The fact that the Open Campus has been able to positively impact this region’s human resources, and its human resource development, socially and economically speaking, and enrich the lives of so many, is authentic and empirical testimony to its value as an enduring part of the Region’s higher education eco-system, Dr Severin explained.
He reminded the Council that though this was the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the last academic year represented the first full academic year affected by the pandemic. In this regard, he stated, “the issues related to the pandemic continue to fundamentally affect the parameters under which the Campus operated.”
Response to La Soufriere Volcanic eruption
With respect to the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines in April 2021, the Interim Principal said the Campus led The UWI’s response. This included the shipment of relief supplies to St Vincent and the Grenadines from staff in Barbados; activation of 2 disaster relief accounts; monetary donations from the Guild of Students; a donation of US$20,000 from The UWI Toronto Gala; and the provision of counselling services to assist staff and students with physical and psychosocial needs. In addition, special provisions were made for Vincentian students. These included extension of assignment due dates without penalties.
Dr Severin added that the volcanic eruption provided the opportunity for the Campus to substantially revise and update its disaster management protocols.
Rightsizing the Campus
The Council Meeting received and approved several reports and papers. One of the most significant was a paper entitled “Open Campus Rightsizing Concept Note.”
The paper noted that while no definitive decision has been made in this regard, the Campus has commenced the necessary process of engaging with Divisional Directors and Department/Unit Heads and engaging with the relevant unions. “These engagements will be closely followed by the conduct of structural diagnostics of each Division to inform the redesign of systems and processes that will fit the needs of a Global Campus with exceptional online delivery systems that provide high quality regional and international services,” the paper explained.
According to the paper, the focus of the exercise is to maintain the values of good governance, integrity and fairness of process, though at the same time seeking to formulate “an organisation that is fit for purpose as it pivots to the Global Campus, while it retains The UWI Brand intact.”
The meeting also received several departmental reports as well as reports from the Guild of Students President, Norice Artwell, and the Open Campus Alumni Report, presented by Jamie-Lee Rock, President of the Belize Alumni Chapter.
The Campus Chief Financial Officer, Dr Noel Morgan presented the financial statements. Dr Morgan noted three main challenges: collection of student fees and government receivables; continuing impairments; and increased salary bill due to union-negotiated increases across the region. He noted that the total amount owing to the Campus is BD$53.2 million, which is equivalent to 2.7 years of budgeted contributions.
This was the third consecutive year that the Campus Council meeting was held online. The open session of the Council meeting can be viewed using this link: https://www.facebook.com/ UWITV/videos/296340792610695.