Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and members of the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda erupted in thunderous applause on hearing the official announcement from Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, that Antigua and Barbuda will receive the 4th landed campus of the University of the West Indies.
Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles made the announcement on Wednesday during a press conference at the Mona Campus, stating that “this is an historic moment in the development of the Caribbean community, in Antigua and Barbuda, the OECS, and for The University of the West Indies that is committed to serving the needs of its chartered members, and the entire region.”
“On behalf of The University of the West Indies, Chancellor Bermudez and I, wish to commend Prime Minister Brown, his Government, and the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for taking this bold, visionary step into the future they wish to craft for their citizens and indeed for the collective benefit of Caribbean people,” Sir Hilary said.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that his government had a fight on the domestic level to achieve the historical decision, but his government was committed to the cause and was therefore unrelenting in moving forward with the mission to have the UWI campus in Antigua and Barbuda.
“There was a lot of partisan politics at the domestic level. But we know that this decision would have emerged as one of the most significant decisions of any government in the history of Antigua and Barbuda. We are very pleased that Antigua and Barbuda has decided to anchor this facility for the benefit of the residents and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and the wider OECS,” Prime Minister Browne said.
He noted that this decision will significantly impact human resource development of Antigua and Barbuda and the sub-region and that is why it is a very proud moment for the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda.
“We were determined to have the fourth landed campus of the UWI here to serve the developmental needs of the OECS. We have had to repurpose the five islands facility and subsequently passed a tax measure to ensure that the university is adequately funded and now we are at the stage where the university council and the technical committees would have confirmed the viability of this campus and in essence we are now on the cusp of establishing the 4th landed campus of the UWI right here at Five Islands,” Prime Minister Browne said.
“ We are absolutely elated. And in essence it will help us to cover the training gaps and the educational and intellectual gaps within the OECS and to ensure that we can provide a wide spectrum of socio-economic opportunities for our people. This will ensure that we are more globally competitive,” he added.
Prime Minister Browne also pointed out that there will be a significant amount of opportunities not only satisfying the socioeconomic requirements of the people of the OECS, but it also lends to a number of skilled individuals and professors operating within the OECS region which will help its development.
“The reality is that we have been growing at a rate of five percent per annum but in order to sustain that rate of growth, we need to have graduates with the skills in order to sustain that level of growth or increase the growth beyond five percent. I am sure that other countries within the OECS are likely to experience similar rates of growth and having this university in the sub-region is important in terms of making university degrees accessible to individuals within the OECS, recognizing that this area has been an underserved area at the lowest levels of enrolment and graduates. I think it’s a great opportunity for the people of our sub-region,” PM Browne concluded.
The Five Islands Campus will begin by admitting its first cohort of some 800 students in September, 2019. The majority of these 800 students are already registered in levels 1 and 2 of The University of the West Indies programmes are currently being delivered in Antigua under a franchise agreement at the Antigua State College, and other Tertiary Institutions. These students, will transition to the Five Islands Campus.
In concluding his announcement on Wednesday, Sir Hillary said that “there is no doubt that the region’s development is being held back, not by a shortage of capital, but by inadequate critical skills, and a shortage of trained professionals. This campus is intended to contribute to solving this development problem in Antigua and Barbuda and by extension the sub region and CARICOM in general.” (Ends)