The Gleaner’s editorial – Consider merging UTech with UWI took me by surprise on Monday, March 24. Early that morning I was watching a TV programme and based on the conversation I thought “both Universities have to find a way to co-exist.” I still mean it, by the way. However, I never once thought of a merger.
As a child, my understanding of the University of the West Indies (UWI) was the theory-based, research-oriented more traditional type of institution; while College of Arts, Science and Technology – CAST – (as it was called then) was the more practical, hands on training institution guided by the advance of technology.
Over the years those rules/guidelines changed and I have observed some overlaps and some what I would consider – running out of its lane type expansion, when UTech delved into law and even dentistry. It made too much of a blatant attempt to compete with UWI instead of moving programmes it had, which could do with broadening the scope. Its Technical Education programme for example, I thought would have been useful, as we see students these days leaning closer to more vocational types of study (global trend).
UTech made its early move when after its association with “World Class Athletes” developed its Faculty of Sport and Science. They have made some serious investment into that area and in two years would have released research information valuable to the growth and development of the sport industry.
While the UWI has essentially stayed in its lane and remained traditional, it trots on slowly on its traditional track with a few additions but has not really used the Mona School of Business in the most effective way.The equivalent of what the MSB anywhere in the world has exposed its research information on several sectors and established the trends of the new workforce. The Caribbean institution has played its own games and the overlapping within its own corridors via Cave Hill, St. Augustine, has done little for Caribbean integration by offering a few of the programmes at each location; the ones which would normally have students starting in one and finishing in the other is fading. The next generation of leaders are not getting the same opportunity to start co-existing like our current leaders (which is debatable, I know); however it is our duty to facilitate.
Both universities are valuable to the existence of this country tertiary academic base and a merger would not broaden, but in fact narrow the vision of a country whose vision is to be world class by 2030. I would urge both leaders though to insist on the following
- Wider research into areas of competitive advantage and how each would enhance the courses/curricula already existing
- Re-engage the non-traditional society more than it has – both are in communities that need an injection of academic thrust
- Commit courses/training to political and other leaders – be more practical and open
- Find a way to academise mastery is non-traditional areas so the society is able to recognise that work that is done outside of formal settings can be considered worthwhile – Evaluate work of those who have not had a chance to educate formally and quantify the work done in academic terms
By 2030, my dream is that we have an educated population, but with the tools necessary to take on the world i.e. be globally competitive. A merger will not achieve this.