Wednesday 19th April, 2006



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Following is the conclusion of a presentation made by Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, principal of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies to the campus council on March 31.

Research, graduate studies at UWI

Dr Bhoe Tewarie

There has been a major shift at St Augustine towards research and graduate studies; and within graduate studies, we are making a clear distinction between taught masters degrees to strengthen professional competence and research degrees to support our efforts in knowledge creation.

Currently, there are 445 students enrolled in MPhil programmes and 178 students engaged in PhD work. Close to 2,200 are enrolled in taught programmes.

A serious attempt is being made to build research around clusters by drawing interdisciplinary strength to each cluster.

The objective here is to optimise our talents, conduct interdisciplinary research and attract the brightest and best students to each cluster or pool.

As we develop clusters and build up our research graduate cohort, we are also making strategic alliances with partner institutions facilitating movement back and forth and easy collaboration.

We also hope to attract talented post doctoral fellows as part of our campus research enterprise.

The idea here is not just to turn out dissertations and other publications but to generate ideas that can be patented, commercialised, yield innovations and generally be converted into revenue.

It might be useful, at this point, to highlight some of the research areas in which our faculty members are distinguishing themselves. I can only mention some but the work of each faculty member is contained in documents circulated.

There are researchers such as Dr C Carrington (medical sciences) and Dr Dave Chadee (life sciences) who are working on the possible eradication of dengue fever.

It is likely that a Bill Gates Foundation grant will soon support their work and align them with an international partner.

Prof Amanda MacRae and PhD students J Ramchandani and A Rogers are working on the link between diet and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Prof Dyer Narinesingh is working on the development of novel sensitive devices utilising immobilised enzymes which can produce microdevices that may be implanted into patients to monitor things that might be critical to a patient’s health.

The health economics unit is working on a national human development report for T&T under the auspices of the UNDP and recently received funding from the government for its expansion in addition to a World Bank grant for the construction of office space.

The centre for gender and development studies is researching gender differentials in the secondary and tertiary levels of educational systems in the anglophone Caribbean.

Prof Karl Theodore just completed a UNDP project entitled, Responding to HIV/Aids Crisis: Towards a Determination of National and Regional Resources Mobilisation Capability.

Dr Ranjit Singh recently conducted an evaluation of competitiveness of selected agricultural commodities in Caricom for the Caricom Secretariat and together with Drs Rankine and Seepersad, did the technical preparatory work on marine fisheries resources for Caribbean governments prior to the WTO negotiations.

The cocoa research unit, in conjunction with the USDA, continues to advance the project of developing a DNA finger printing database for all major cocoa collections in the Americas.

Prof Zulaika Ali is working on the early life origins of adult diseases.

Public education

The public education programme of the campus has become more vigorous with each passing year.

Inaugural professorial lectures have now been institutionalised as has our distinguished lecture series.

There are a number of initiatives at faculty and departmental level geared to particular audiences and interests, most of which are open to the public.

In addition, conferences have proliferated each year. Some are managed at campus level, others at faculty and departmental levels.

Participation by the public is always encouraged and dissemination of information is facilitated by the effective use of mass media as well as strategic use of our campus publications, UWI Today and STAN.

Public service

This university has had a strong tradition of public service since its inception and the St Augustine campus over the last five years has not only been true to that tradition but we have collectively gone out of our way to serve the public interest and to do public good.

Recently I received a letter from the head, curriculum division, Ministry of Education, thanking staff for the contribution they had made to the reform of curriculum in the secondary school system and a very recent follow-up letter to me from the programme manager, education qualitative improvement asking for further support which we are more than happy to provide.

I also received, quite recently, a letter of thanks from the permanent secretary, Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education, for work which some of our faculty had done on human resource issues related to the construction sector.

What is clearly evident here is that we not only do public service and support public policy but that we are also regarded by the Government as a knowledge resource and a reliable partner in development.

Any view to the contrary will not stand up to scrutiny and would be refuted out of hand by the available evidence.

In that particular curriculum assessment exercise many of my colleagues took time from their overburdened schedules to work in teams and to provide quality responses to the Ministry of Education in a time of need.

And all of this, I need not tell you, is pro bono work which is not merely a gift to the Government and our country but also represents an opportunity cost to each individual involved in such exercises.

In my own particular case, I served as chairman of the Vision 2020 subcommittee on tertiary education with other colleagues from the University of the West Indies as well as with colleagues from other tertiary level institutes.

This is the policy document that we produced which was integrated into the Vision 2020 policy document prepared by the IOB, now Arthur Lok Jak Graduate School of Business.

In addition, I serve as a member of the National Commission for Unesco and I serve two regional institutions. I am a member of the Caribbean Examinations Council Board and a board member of the Caribbean Court of Justice Trust Fund.

I served as chairman of the National Institute of Higher Education, Research Science and Technology (Niherst) for six years and during the period facilitated the creation of Costatt, wrote a rationale for the creation of the NTA which was used to establish that institution which plays a major role in unconventional training today and facilitated all the foundation work which lead to the creation of the accreditation council of T&T.

You have an idea now of some of my contributions as well as those of my colleagues whom I mentioned earlier, but I want to let you know that the deputy principal has served on a cabinet-appointed committee related to tertiary education and distance learning and close to 70 members of faculty on this campus serve government and government institutions in a direct way as part of their contribution to national and regional development.

Prof Sankat, for instance, was responsible for science and technology policy in the Vision 2020 exercise.

So UWI St Augustine is very much a public service university. We are happy to be such an institution and pleased whenever we are called upon to play our part in public policy and public service.

The road ahead

As we look to the next five years, we anticipate the establishment of a number of key institutes and centres strategically designed to drive curriculum, foster innovation, attract the best talent and influence output quality.

We look forward to the full functioning of the institute for critical thinking within the next few months.

We look to the transformation of the instructional development unit into a major centre for the training of tertiary level teachers within the framework of leadership and entrepreneurship.

We also look forward to the full functioning of the centre for biological diversity, we look forward to the construction of the film, animation and media laboratory in due course and we are anxious to see a centre for entrepreneurship and innovation get off the ground.

All of this will help to strengthen what we have already begun, providing critical and creative thinkers for the society who are sensitive to the environment and its ecology and will not sacrifice sustainable development for growth, who will carry with them an entrepreneurial outlook and who will be appreciative of the role of technology in society and development even if they have been educated in the humanities or the arts.

Moreover, we hope to be a centre for tertiary level teacher training supporting the thrust for quality teaching and learning throughout the tertiary sector regionally.

We envisage an internationalising campus, but also one in which more of our students are exposed to education abroad during their undergraduate years in a world in which a local education is too provincial, without international exposure and experience.

We foresee a more financially independent campus in which our revenue streams are more diversified and our dependence on government reduced.

We will strive always to get the optimum value from communications technology and other technological innovations.

We anticipate greater collaboration across the three campuses and we envisage a consortium of universities worldwide with whom we have strong, meaningful and sustainable alliances which benefit students at both undergraduate and graduate levels and faculty, especially those dedicated to research.

We see the campus playing an even greater role in development nationally and regionally and we also see ourselves influencing public policy as well as private sector innovation.

We will also work assiduously to make a valid contribution to the world’s knowledge pool while responding effectively to the challenge of development in our own region.

There is a direct link between higher education quality and development itself and I therefore close with a quotation from a book written a couple decades ago by Lawrence Harrison:

“What makes development happen is our ability to imagine, theorise, conceptualise, experiment, invent, articulate, organise, manage, solve problems and do a hundred other things with our minds and hands that contribute to the progress of the individual and of humankind.

“Natural resources, climate, geography, history, market size, governmental policies and many other factors influence the direction and pace of progress. But the engine is the human creative capacity.”

Let the St Augustine campus remain the learning society which nurtures human creative capacity and endeavour. And let us always remember that this will only be possible under conditions of freedom.

Closing remarks

In closing I thank my colleagues in administration, our faculty members, our hardworking staff at all levels, our students and our four unions for making the last year, in particular, and the last five years, in general, years of achievement and progress for this campus, institution, country and region.

This has been a time in which we really stretched into the future to reach higher heights.

I thank the Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education and the Government for their guidance on occasion and its financial support over the years and we look forward to a continuing fruitful relationship.

I thank former vice chancellor Rex Nettleford for his unstinting support of my stewardship and this campus as well as former chancellor Sir Shridath Ramphal.

And I thank vice chancellor Harris for his support, advice and guidance and chancellor Sir George Alleyne for his support, counsel and wisdom.

The achievements of this St Augustine campus are the collective achievements of an evolving learning community.

It is my hope that over time more and more people will make their presence and impact felt as more and more people become part of a band wagon but one capable of cerebration, which will assist us in thinking our way through to progress.





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