Last week, the three faculties of Social Sciences of the
University of the West Indies held a cross-campus conference
to discuss various issues of academic policy and collaboration.
The gathering emerged out of the Strategic Plan for the University
of the West Indies for the period 20072012 that was
approved by the Universitys Council last June.
That Strategic Plan really challenges the Faculties of Social
Sciences on the three campuses of UWI to sustain global standards
of excellence in their undergraduate and graduate teaching
programmes through the aggressive pursuit of quality assurance
reviews, online innovations, stakeholder feedback, technological
applications and curriculum reviews.
Outstanding research accomplishments can be made possible
through the implementation of major reforms in the delivery
of graduate study programmes and the greater involvement of
regional governments, the private sector and international
agencies in the enhanced funding of research activities.
The brightest students in the region should feel encouraged
to attend the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University
of the West Indies as their first choice because of the quality
of the programmes being offered and their relevance to the
The availability of blended learning resources can now allow
an enhanced quality of delivery for courses, degrees, diplomas
and certificates across the region that will enable career
development and life-long learning opportunities on a fairer
basis by 2012. To this end, the emergence of the Open Campus
in the UWI system will have a role to play in the future of
Administrative reform of the functional operations of the
university is being addressed to help it accomplish a more
responsive and student-friendly environment through the application
of a more decentralised decision-making process in student
matters, revised admissions and examinations processes, and
the increased adoption of e-solutions.
The success of this transformation can be accomplished by
consensus management techniques internally in the face of
growing competition across the region in the tertiary sector.
Despite the difficulties of the secondary school system, UWI
has to help its graduates to satisfy the human resource needs
of the region in the public and private sectors by virtue
of their wider exposure to critical thinking and problem-solving
techniques that will be presented to them.
Those who decide to pursue postgraduate study will be able
to move seamlessly without knowledge gaps to attractive graduate
programmes that will push back the frontiers of knowledge
in their respective fields.
The challenges of large classes and expansion of access in
a shifting tertiary environment must be faced directly. The
reality is the University of the West Indies continues to
play a role in this region while celebrating its sixtieth
The need for critical self-analysis is a good outcome of a
cross-campus conference in which the major players are the
Faculty members themselves who are willing to critique their
own performance and rate their strengths and weaknesses with
The ability to have a dialogue about the curriculum in which
all of the regulatory booklets and syllabi are set aside is
a healthy approach in reviewing what the Faculty of Social
Sciences should be teaching and researching.
The issues of relevance of new programmes or the retirement
of some older courses and programmes are crucial in the revamping
of the curricula to suit the state of the Social Sciences
at the start of this millennium.
The conference allowed the Faculties of Social Sciences to
enhance the use of the regional system to strengthen teaching
There exists a basis for collaborative research and teaching
between the campuses. Online applications can be used with
great effect and new research clusters can be formed.
The promotion of collegiality across the UWI system was a
major benefit of this conference insofar as academic and administrative
staff had the ability to meet each other outside of cyberspace.
This will improve the quality of the interactions as new friendships
were formed across the region in a virtual spirit of Caricom.
The ability of the UWI Distance Education Centre to facilitate
the live Web casting of this conference to the Mona and Cave
Hill campuses for the benefit of those who could not attend
added real value to the proceedings.
Drive the process
The use of breakout groups for specialised discussions about
where the faculty members wanted to see their respective disciplines
go was a most effective tool.
The disciplines covered were accounting, banking and finance,
criminology, economics, government, hospitality and tourism,
international relations, management information systems, management
studies, public administration/public sector management, sociology,
social work and psychology.
There was also a Faculty Office group that considered matters
of academic policy such as matriculation policies, registration
issues, harmonisation of courses and regulations, credits
and exemptions for courses already pursued, the Banner Student
System (for electronic management of records and interface
with students), the declaration of degrees, etc.
Graduate studies as well as research and innovation issues
also were discussed in light of the fact that the new strategic
plan has placed great emphasis on these two areas as pillars
of the plan.
There is a considerable amount of research being undertaken
at the UWI, but the general public is not aware of much of
it. This will be one of the challenges for the remaining four
years of the plan itself.
The changing tertiary environment in the region can drive
this process to the extent that many social problems are already
being tackled by scholars in the institution whose work is
not known beyond the walls.
The University of the West Indies now has a golden opportunity
to reposition its image in the society as a creator of knowledge,
while simultaneously satisfying the academic and career desires
of its students.
Strengthening regionality while simultaneously addressing
national engagement processes is a challenge the UWI has had
for 60 years and has managed it well. Therein lies the strength
of the UWI.