Caribbean Single Market and Economy - Who Says UWI isn't Doing Enough?
The University of the West Indies (UWI) has often been viewed as a long-standing partner to Caribbean Governments in fostering integration and development of our people, and forming strategic alliances.
UWI's role has been assessed based on changes in its curriculum, the level of intellectual discussion stimulated on the topic among people of the region and the extent to which it has facilitated product development by enhancing the regions access to specialised training and technology transfer.
A major criticism levelled against the University is that it has failed to employ innovative strategies and radical curriculum engineering in achieving the transformation required to strategically address the challenges facing the region.
Caribbean entrepreneurs argue that UWI has not instilled in its graduates, the dramatic changes in attitude and perspectives required to assist the business sector in confronting the challenges of the CSME. Amidst a climate of high unemployment among graduates, the view is that UWI is not equipping its graduates to seek opportunities for self-employment. Instead, UWI is churning out bookworms that lack entrepreneurial vision!
The question has also been asked about whether the University has increased opportunities for regional cooperation in human, economic and social development. No doubt, it has played a critical and significant role in integrating the people and countries of the region. In fact, it can be argued that UWI has played a pivotal role in advancing the spirit of cooperation and integration that has made the Caribbean single market a reality. In comparison to the "much-lauded" CARICOM Federation, the continuing achievements of the University of the West Indies dispel the arguments that the region cannot unite.
But is UWI doing enough to assist graduates to confront the changes in the international trading environment and the implications for small, open economies like ours? There is only so much that institutions of the region, such as UWI can do. The business sector armed with a more educated workforce must now do the rest.
One thing is certain. UWI has over the years engendered a spirit of regional cooperation and Caribbean identity. Without a doubt, the University, as a regional institution, has served as a beacon in bringing the people and countries of the region together. To suggest otherwise is to be overly critical and to underscore the efforts of the Governments, University Officials and Graduates who have contributed to this process. But amidst these efforts, University Officials admit that the numbers of OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) registrants continue to decline. More and more students of the region are looking towards programmes at foreign universities, albeit self funded and more expensive. Why is that? The answer may lie in the fact that the university has itself failed to adapt to the changing climate.
Who is to say that UWI's strategies and timing are not in keeping with the demonstrated needs of its people? The real question is what role should UWI play in preparing the region for CSME. Is there a defined role or a specific aspect for which it should assume responsibility? The issue of whether UWI is doing enough or what it should be doing will remain a topic for debate. What is beyond dispute is that UWI can and should be doing more to prepare the region for the challenges of the CSME.