ST JOHNS, Antigua: The official regional launch of the University of the West Indies (UWI) newest campus, the Open Campus, took place during the 29th meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the CARICOM Community (CARICOM) in Antigua and Barbuda.
Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Nigel Harris formally launched the Open Campus during an official news conference with the international, regional and local media on Wednesday, July 2, 2008.
Professor Harris stated that the University deliberately chose this moment to announce this initiative when the Heads of Government of the Caribbean were gathered, to reiterate the University’s continued dynamic response to broaden and enhance the reach of the institution to the people of the Caribbean.
The Vice-Chancellor revealed that the UWI’s Open Campus is an amalgamation of the previous Office of the Board for Non-Campus Countries & Distance Education (BNNCDE), the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), the UWI Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC), and the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit (TLIU).
“This entity is designed to capitalise on advances in online technologies and on the platform of over 50 sites... to advance a more student-friendly, much broader basket of degree, diploma and certificate programmes for Caribbean people who live beyond the immediate vicinity of our established campuses.. For more than two years, we have been offering nursing degree programmes, bachelors in education programmes and other courses designed to enhance the opportunities of the working public to uplift themselves educationally, without necessarily enrolling on one of the three campuses of the University.”
The Vice-Chancellor also spoke to the development of the Open Campus as an essential strategic element of the University’s ongoing five-year strategic plan to transform its curricula and education systems, as well as to enhance the postgraduate programmes and research productivity. He stated that “the Open Campus will insist on quality education relevant to the region, student-centredness, student- friendly services, and the creation of knowledge and outreach to the Caribbean Community outside the walls of the University, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean, Belize, the Cayman Islands and in rural areas in campus countries.”
Also speaking at the official news conference was the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Open Campus, Professor Hazel Simmons-McDonald, who referred to the new entity as ‘a campus for the times and a campus for the future.” Professor Simmons-McDonald stated that the Open Campus has the same level of autonomy as other UWI campuses with its own Academic Board, financial management, registry, administrative and student support systems.
She said that “the Open Campus currently utilises a wide variety of distance and mixed-mode delivery methods and has a staff of almost 400 professionals to support its growing student population across the region. We work very closely with faculty on the three other UWI campuses, as well as with other tertiary institutions and development agencies throughout the Caribbean to design, develop and deliver quality programmes by distance to meet the learning needs of the people of the Caribbean.”
The Open Campus will formally begin to offer its services across the region on August 1, 2008 to coincide with the year-long celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the UWI. The Chairman of the Open Campus Council is the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir K. Dwight Venner.