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The University of the West Indies has exceeded the enrolment targets set in the Strategic Plan 2002-2007 in the second year of the five-year Plan period. The number of students pursuing first degrees grew by more than 4,000 – from a headcount of 15,307 in academic year 2001/02 to 19,373 across the three campuses in the current academic year 2003/04.

This was announced by the Vice Chancellor, Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, at the annual business meeting of the Council of the University of the West Indies which was held at the Mona Campus on Friday, April 23, 2004. In his final report to Council, he noted that distance education enrolment also showed a healthy increase of 14.4% over the previous academic year. Total figures, combining on-campus enrolment, distance education enrolment and the over 20,000 students registered in part-time academic programmes and para-professional training throughout the region, through the School of Continuing Studies, exceeded 50,000. He stressed that this was an important indicator of the contribution the UWI was making to education and training in the region.

He expressed concern that the proportion of students who were pursuing studies in the Science-based Faculties continued to decline, pointing to the need for further effort to improve enrolment in these critical areas. Through-put rates were reported as being satisfactory with the completion time for three-year and five-year degrees averaging 3.1 and 5.2 years, respectively. In terms of output, the UWI was reported as producing approximately 6,000 graduates annually, compared with a level of just over 4,500 in 1997.

The Council endorsed a proposal aimed at widening even further, and at a faster rate, access to higher education. This entails the upgrading of the status of qualified tertiary level institutions which have long held an affiliated relationship with the UWI, to that of a College in special relationship with the University. Four such institutions in Jamaica – Mico College, Shortwood Teachers’ College, the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts and The United Theological College – as well as the University of Belize, are being considered for this status.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Report spoke to the measures being taken to institutionalise a culture of on-going quality evaluation and curriculum reform, to strengthen research capacity and performance, and to improve the technology infrastructure on the three campuses in order to take fuller advantage of the advances in this area in enhancing the teaching and learning environment.

He expressed concern at the worsening financial situation, particularly at the Mona campus which suffered significant cuts in the Governments subvention. While acknowledging that the University would need to find creative ways of meeting its obligations, such as sourcing alternative funding, the Vice Chancellor made a plea to the contributing Governments to protect the huge investment in capital outlay, infrastructure and human resource capacity building represented in the fifty-six year-old institution.

He cited some ways through which additional funds might be garnered, such as the American Foundation for the UWI (AFUWI), the successor to the Princess Alice Appeal Fund registered in the United States since the 1950s, which now spearheads the Capital Campaign in the US. The Council agreed that more attention should be paid to marketing of the University, within as well as outside the region, targeting the West Indian diaspora in particular, where the demand for Caribbean Studies could be exploited. The UWI Alumni, many of whom are settled in metropolitan areas in North America and in Britain will be challenged to assist in this endeavour.

The Vice Chancellor’s report was the highlight of the Council meeting.

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