UWI Expansion Plans Misguided~Need To First Address Relevance.


The following article was submitted by the provocative Bush Tea. BU hope that our readers will enjoy the points offered as much as we did. We have attached the Nation Article which provoked Bush Tea to his submission.


The single biggest mistake made by those of us living in this unprecedented era, is to not factor the now exponential levels of change into our everyday decisions. The result is that we continue to expect that what worked ‘yesterday’ will work ‘tomorrow’, and to compensate, we have become extremely creative at devising and spinning excuses for the numerous failures that we continue to accumulate.Case in point is the University of the West Indies, specifically the Cave Hill Campus.

Now I am a graduate of UWI, and a proud one too, even more significantly, the current Dean, Dr Beckles has to my mind, already paid significant dues to this country in educating the large majority of us about our history, our rights, our true potential as Bajans and about the power of education. It seems to me as though Dr. Beckles’ stint as national educator ended when he became Professor and Dean. The current focus of the Cave Hill Campus and of Prof Beckles, with their focus on mass results and billion dollar expansion projects, boggles the mind in terms of its expected cost, returns, and intentions.

In the first place, it must be obvious to anyone who cares to look, that the modern ‘degree’ is largely a meaningless scroll handed out to anyone who can find the money and time to register, who turns up to class occasionally, who can actually read, and who have access to the internet. The ‘lecture format’ is a system adopted directly out of the early 1900’s. Some overpaid academic stands in front of a mass of students spouting incoherent gibberish and setting course work (which is easily downloaded from the internet). Eventually they set completely predictable ‘exams’, which mostly test short-term memory. In 2007, This is so outdated and irrelevant a system that it would be funny if only we were no paying so much for it… The general quality, and mostly female composition of the graduates produced by the institution speaks volumes about the system.

How will it benefit this country to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to extend this level of ‘education’? Or to achieve the goal of ‘one graduate in every household’?

In an environment where any student preparing for 11 plus is savvy enough to use computers, cell phones and even ipods to access and manipulate more data in a hour than a UWI honours graduate of 20 years ago would have accessed in a full term – where have we really come with an educational approach that has not changed substantially in 40 years?

The final reality of the ineffectiveness of our university system is the current level of management in Barbados. The fact that most of our large institutions are managed and controlled by NON UWI educated (and by many NON-Barbadian) managers is instructive. What is UWI’s real role and legacy? A classic case in point has been the dramatic turn-around achieved by the BNB immediately after years of mediocre local management was ended

Where is the cutting edge research and development?

Where is the leadership in political; theological; cultural and sociological thought?

Where is the leadership in sports development?

Where is the level of human development that justifies the huge expenditures in university education over the last 4 decades (over and above similar jurisdictions) without such high levels of expenditures?

How is it that far from exporting ‘educated’ assets (apart from the few organisations like GEL and COW) in 2007, our Government could actively be offering incentives to attract foreign investors, managers, consultants and such to this country?

In my humble assessment, far from investing a further $110M in to the current UWI mess this country needs to fundamentally review and re-engineer the whole concept of ‘Education’ in the 21st century. This should begin with radical change at the very top. I blame Dr Beckles and his predecessors for the poor performance and loss of BS&T and indeed for the general loss of leadership in Barbados to the far more effective and obviously ‘prepared’ Trinidad management machine. I certainly would not reward such a performance record with a 100 Million dollar campus expansion project. UWI would be a near perfect institution if only we were back at 1975. In fact our whole education system ($400 Million per year or over $10,000 per year per student) is outdated, unfocussed and inefficient. Everyone knows this but no one seems to have the vision to initiate change (clearly where we need new ideas in Barbados is at the political leadership level)

In reality the leadership and the Policy makers for our education system need to be replaced with persons who understand the realities of meeting the challenges of the twenty first century. This can be achieved either by changing the people presently there, or by changing their minds and their current approach. Education is no longer a charming process used to differentiate the elite from the masses. It is a vital and dynamic national tool that is essential to the long-term survival of a culture, a country and a nation.

It is too vital to be ignored or even delayed.

27 thoughts on “UWI Expansion Plans Misguided~Need To First Address Relevance.

  1. Fair enough assessment no arguments here, however do you have any solutions to remedy the problem other than to say we need to change.

  2. Well actually yes Kem. But why should I have to have solutions? I have not accepted any position as policy maker nor do i take a salary to administer education in Barbados.
    You (and the rest of us) should ask this question of people like Anthony Wood. The Chief Education Officer, Prof Beckles and the like.
    Ultimately, The PM and even David Thompson are the ones who should be held to account with answers –
    If they are at a loss I will be happy to offer another article with the way forward.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why people accept positions where they have no clue of how to approach the challenged that face them…

  3. Bush Tea ,

    ” I can’t for the life of me understand why people accept positions where they have no clue of how to approach the challenged that face them… ”


    Bush Tea,

    I know you referring to Owen Arthur !

    Would you recommend a Bush Bath for him ?

  4. Bush Tea~we don’t agree with you. as John Citizens we should all be part of the solution. If you have a solution you need to forward it!

  5. Jarome, I would never say such a thing about Owen Arthur. I like him a lot.
    Our current PM and Minister of Finance however is a completely different matter.

    I feel that any person who accepts a position – OK- let us say as PM – should have a clear vision, a level of self confidence that they can handle the task and enough wisdom to be open to different views in such a way as to revise personal positions if necessary.

    Surely Owen can see that any hopes of a strong and meaningful CSME is a pipe dream at best…and a waste of valuable resources

    Surely Owen can see that while bringing foreign workers here en masse do have some short-term benefits, the potential for future trouble is serious. (look at anywhere)

    Surely Owen can see that Glyne Clarke (and Liz and Mr. Tourism) is an embarrassing liability to the whole country and that the whole flyover scam is but a means to a free flow operation… of funds…

    This same analysis could be done for so many other persons in position in this country that there is no surprise we are headed where we are…

    And David,

    What John Citizen What ?!

    My solution may be completely unsuitable to the people of this country. I have a theory that says that a people ALWAYS get exactly what they deserve. The only difference between Owen, Liz, Glyne and Prof Beckles and the rest of us is that they operate at a higher level. (and the higher a monkey climb…) But the truth is that this is a generally DISHONEST country, full of immoral and unethical behaviours and with leaders that are just like the rest of us.

    My ‘solutions’ will not just address the O$A’s etc….

  6. Bush Tea,

    Still, whether you believe your solution(s) to be unworkable or not, we would still like to hear what it is exactly you have in mind.

  7. A sound position BushTea. The problem with UWI as I see it is that it is headed by a bunch of fossilized FARTS who are exceedingly comfortable dealing in “the space that was”. That they are not tooled to deal” in the space that is”is quite clear. I believe that these people recognise their respective shortcomings but of a percieved loss of stature, these people will continue with every fiber and sinew to keep us in “IN THE SPACE THAT WAS”.
    (I am also a proud Grad of UWI).
    Do you think taht this present lot of Politicians were ready for these blogs. No!!!”The Space that is”.
    I am asking is this a problem with us as a people? I am Black!
    Bush Tea the situation you presentis fully backed by me. It is endemic in all the Faculties at UWI. ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
    Where were the Economists.the Finance and Business people(UWI) who one would have thought would have happily voluntered to shed some light on the BS&T deal. Poor people sent these F%^$&ers to school free. Yet not a word from any of them.and they want more Taxpayers money.
    Again is it who we are as a people. I BLACK.

  8. I appreciate and share much of what Bush Teas speaks about however I do believe that Professor Beckles is making a serious attempt to transform the university into much of what Bush Tea speaks or rather alludes to. However as in all things there is level of inertia as it relates to change.

    I do also share the view that as a University one would expect a level of agitation on issues within the society, but one must remember that the University is primarily government funded. Furthermore the majority of the Facultly lecturers are in fact temporary lecturers and thus the issue of job security and marginalization within the University comes to the fore.

    Until such time as the political element is removed from the University via removal of government funding I would not realistically expect the University to become more vocal. That is not to say the government funding should removed, not at all, the University albeit flawed, still represents an essential social engineering tool, providing an avenue for higher.

    On the issue of reform at the University, I believe the structure of the programmes as well as the curriculum are out of touch in many cases with the business world. The over emphasis of the theoretical as opposed to practical is significantly exposed as graduates enter the world of work and must be trained in order to reasonably perform their duties.

    Many Universities are moving towards an academic/internship structure, where the student in order to attain the degree must complete an internship. For example in the UK a student must work for the entire third year of the four year degree programme. Thus there are three years of theoretical teaching and one year of practical exposure, which is quintessential.

    This is just one element where a structural adjustment can be made in order to enhance the relevance of the programme offering at the University. Of course there are other areas which need attention, but this is simply as start. The point here is that any further discussion should be solution based.

  9. Oh Bush Tea you don’t fool us at all. Your postings are provocative BUT laced with a knowledge of the system to which you write with such disenchantment. How can you be a proud UWI product but remain hesitant to offer your perspective on your solution? Is it time to lend the off-used cliché “put up or shut up? : – )
    BU understands Kem’s argument but the challenge as we see it with an internship in Barbados is that the same companies in which the student will be placed those same company are crying out for high order management skills. So the internship we may find could be self-defeating. It appears to be a vicious cycle which Beckles is throwing money at in an attempt to break-it. His strategy to befriend the Chamber of Commerce and the captains of industry appears to be the only path open to him at this point.

  10. I enjoyed reading the analysis by “Bush Tea”. I fully agree with what he says. Some other commnts are also very interesting. Here is my contribution… Ihope it is not too long….

    It is hard for some to accept the reality of CHANGE. Today we are in a period of the most rapid chang since the printed book created education and the University some 500 years ago.It is indeed a scary time, especially if one has a vested interest in preserving the past. Accepting obsolesence is not easy!

    I went to a Canadian University in the late 1960’s- early 1970’s. At that time I heard the lectures, and studied in-depth the works of a learned Toronto Professor, Marshall McLuhan, who talked about media and technology and their effects on society. One of his famous books was “The Media is The Message” where he postulated that in each age the media and technology we use shapes our culture. He said that the printing press and the book created the Mechanical Age and that electronics and electrical energy was creating the “Electronic Age”:. This was in 1966. Now 40 years later we sww this quite clearly.

    Here is a quote from one of his articles:
    In this article in April 1966.he talks about education in a title: “Electronics & the Psychic Drop-Out”. He said:

    ” [Canada’s] educational system is anachronistic; students are still being processed through the old fragmented specialist chopper and they might as well be on a carousel or a merry-go-round in some entertainment park. Our youngsters at school are reacting to this, and dropping out of school is one response. The youngsters coming out of a highly integral electronic environment go to school and are confronted by a fragmented, specialist environment of subjects and hours of instructions which baffle them. They know that this form of fragmentation does not correspond in any way to the world they’re living in. ”

    The problems we have worldwide today regarding “Education” were therefore quite obvious to McLuhan even in 1966 as the TV generation became disillusioned with the structure of education… this was the beginning of the dropouts ..spawning of the beatniks and the flower power generations.

    This man saw in the mid 1960’s what we see clearly right now. Classroom fragmented training cannot compete then, much less now,with the new “wholistic” electronic age we live in.

    This paradign CHANGE we now live in breaks the 500 year hold of the mechanical age. To adjust we use the new technology like the Internet and other media to tag it on an old mechanical construct like the University, to built and support a mechanical world of buildings, classrooms rather than the lifelong learning “online” experience that real education is all about. The new technology and the Internet makes time and space irrelevant and thus old entities like the University have to keep on spinning the idea that they are required in this “new world”.

    McLuhan main idea was that the Information Age was not just an outgrowth of the Mechanical age, but one that created new mind changing products like radio, TV, and the computer that completely changes the sensory perceptions of man. Those of us who have lived through the last 50 years realize that the world has completely changed before our very eyes.

    People have also changed. The Electronic Age is affecting everyone, especially males and the way they perceive “education”. How can the various entities that come out of the Mechanical Age deal with these changes using the mindset of a past reality?

    The educational institutions and especially the University are just one of the “mechanical age “entities that has become obsolete and is trying to reinvent itself in this “electronic age.”. Today we all have online access to knowledge, e-books, the Internet and all other electronic media. On-line Universities are now in vogue making the classroom obsolete. The question is who will certify whom in this new age of education.

    We all know what e-mail has done to the “snail mail” Postal Services in just a few short years. The same may be the fate of the Universities.

  11. Get thee behind me David!
    If you want me to stop posting on your site just say the word.
    In the first place, as I believe I said already, I do NOT owe you or anyone else anything. I do not receive a salary to solve problems in education, nor have I volunteered myself as a leader or policy-maker.
    I am just a simple bajan responding to a confusing proposition from Professor Beckles.
    How do you know that I am not one of the 90%+ of UWI graduates who have nothing to offer but are simply looking for an enhanced pay package?
    Your attempt at amateur reverse psychology to seek out ‘inside information’ and controversial positions are misguided.
    Since you are man enough to host this blog, and to lead the way in true journalism in Barbados (21st century style), why don’t you ask The Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Professor Beckles and Prof Moseley (in that order) to respond to the ideas expressed? We can all then analyze their response and particularly any NON-responses (Now THESE are persons we pay to know these answers)
    I would be particularly intrigued by their responses to Ecoanalyst’s input.
    …and David,
    What perspective what?!
    You want me to tell a genius like Anthony Wood how to run education? Next thing you will want me to tell you how to run this blog…. wait, I like I just do that.!!…?

    🙂 good one Bush Tea, I almost choked there!

    BU will email Ecoanalyst’s input to Minister Wood.

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  13. Talk about Misguided policies! These guys talk about a graduate in every household. But the economy is not creating enough jobs for graduate level employment even now. All this will lead to is credential inflation and frustration. Who wants to earn a degree then go to work packing shelves?
    What we are doing is steering our chidren into spending years in academic tertiary education. While the island suffers a dirth of skills. More attention must be placed on the linking the islands labour needs to economic policy. There appears to be little strategic planning in this area. Look at edutech. What was that designed achieve?Just providing opportunities to use technology? A better focus would have been that we want to produce X thousands of computer programmers by year Y to create a software industry.

  14. Virago~your comment is shared by many Barbadians. Here is another view. If the Caribbean is moving to CSME and FTAA with the ultimate view of producing “world citizens” then the current plan to educate our citizens would enable Barbados to export labor. As you know it is something which Barbados has been good at over the years. A by-product of it is huge remittances flowing back into the country.

  15. So David,
    What did Minister Wood say about the position?
    Dont tell me you going just let them men off just so?
    How about Prof Beckles? how come he did not tear my article to shreds?
    You mean to say a nobody like me could just write such things about our multi million dollar university and nobody big even bother to show me up for a fool?

    what kinda place dis is?

  16. Bush Tea~ BU did send emails to all the players, even Hillary Beckles. Unfortunately we did not provoke a response. BU feel that the online medium is not yet fully embraced by the policymakers, Barbadians as you know like to stick to the tried and trusted. BU a couple weeks ago asked readers who know the gentlemen to give them a call and ask them to respond to some issues offered by Barbadians.
    Anyway Bush Tea for what it is worth it is a damn good article.

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  19. UWI in its present state is irrelevant.Why is that I can sit here in Barbados and complete a degree with any overseas univeristy but not the UWI?
    Right now too many people are at the mercy of bosses , begging to leave work early in order to make to UWI on time for evening classes/

  20. UWI graduate=frustrated person

    I too am a graduate (not a recent one)

    I went there wanting to learn to do something better ………………..
    I was met by lecturers who told students that if they taught us everything then we would take their jobs. The UWI sets you up to fail. Also, those of us who want to learn are eclipsed by those who have learned how to pass exams. So you have the scenario where those who have received first class honours may not be as skilled as the guy who gets a pass. Do you believe that the same questions appear year after year? I know of a lecturer who has set the same mid term word for word for over 20 years! He always set the paper so that he would keep the questions. Never bothered to write a new test. One student took the time to write down the questions one year to make them available the next year (innocently, he knew nothing of the lecturers laziness). Imagine our glee when the ‘past paper’ we received was the same test word for word. Anyway, everyone passed and the lecturer accused us of cheating. He was more annoyed at having to set a new paper than at the thought that we might have cheated. How can you cheat on a test test that has been the same for 20 years?
    Trying to get a job with the degree was another problem. Every job I applied for I was told that I was ‘over-qualified’.
    I ended up working in a lower paying position because there was nothing available in my chosen field.

  21. The Devil’s Advocate~maybe you should state the period you spent time at the UWI. The argument about the relevance of the UWI has its root in time. There was a time when the education derived from the UWI was satisfactory. In a world which continued to spin at a rapid rate the programmes in our learning environments have not kept pace. A simple change of providing a 24/7 campus will meet roadblocks from lecturers and staff because the traditional 8 to 4 mentality is prevalent.

  22. All the letters in the world don’t give a woman or man the courage to go out on their own. Try creating something new rather than thinking you are dependant on others for a living.

    I applaud the vision to found the division of creative thinking at UWI.

  23. Courage

    It doesn’t take any VISION to launch a division of creative thinking. All that need in some money and PR.
    It takes VISION to make it work….

    Don’t forget that our National Anthem had the ‘vision’ to talk about things like ‘Pride and Industry…’ and bout how ‘these fields and hills ..are now our very own…’

    What vision what?!?
    -No pride, no industry and all the fields for sale…


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  26. I agree with you Devil’s Advocate. I’m currently a UWI student and as a person tryin to learn I have to contend with persons trying to merely pass exams. I find it troubling that when I ask questions to get greater clarification of points that other persons are annoyed by my tenacity and desire to go beneath the surface. Maybe the university system is highly defective because this obssession with merely passing exams is no preparation for the real world. I work and go to school so I see first hand that taking a superficial approach will cause you to fail. The curriculum is inadequate. There needs to be a more broadbrush approach to touch on as many areas as possible instead of teachin a few aspects of an area and then the Professor changing his mind and saying well, we’re not gonna do this since it’s not comin on the exam. I’m like ‘What? What if we face this problem or issue on the field?’ I guess if we’re ill-equipped to meet the demands of modern day society that’s not their problem. That’s one thing I know about UWI for sure. That’s why I say to hell with them, I’m gettin the most out of my degree as possible and to hell with everybody and everything else.

    One last thing I want to add is you are soooooo right. The graduates with lower degrees are much more impressive than those with higher degrees and I think you just hit the nail right on the head. That’s the difference between the people that get first class honours and those that get lower degrees. It’s as I like to say, what you put in is what you get out. If you come to get a degree, you get a degree but if you come to learn you will learn.

  27. shon let us congratulate you on your decision to further your education, it is one of the key ways to succeed in this world. Let us carify something: are you saying the students with the lower honour degrees are the better students? If this is what you are saying we find this amazing. Maybe our visitors form UWI can care to comment?

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