Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning

By Keith Harry | Go to book overview

Chapter 8-1

The University of the West Indies

Ed Brandon

The University of the West Indies (UWI) was set up in 1948 to cater to the English-speaking Caribbean, initially as a college in relationship with the University of London, and located at Mona in Jamaica. It received its charter in 1962. In 1960, the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture at St Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago was incorporated as a second campus, followed in 1963 by the establishment of a campus in Barbados, now at Cave Hill. In 1962, Guyana withdrew from full participation and set up its own university. Enrolment at UWI has risen from the initial thirty-three in 1948, to 1,268 in 1961, 10,026 in 1983, and 18,058 in 1996-7. Besides the three campus territories, the University serves and is funded by another twelve governments, the non-campus countries (NCCs). 1 In 1960-1, the present campus countries provided 66.5 per cent of total enrolment; by the time of the preparation of the University’s first development plan in 1988-9 they provided 93.4 per cent. Regular outreach to the NCCs has been offered in various ways, first through extension services now run by its School of Continuing Studies (SCS) which has centres in most of them, then through a system of Challenge examinations in certain faculties which permitted candidates to sit first-year examinations in their home territory, having worked on their own with perhaps some assistance from the local centre, and most recently through teleconference-based distance education programmes. Teleconference sites now exist or are at an advanced planning stage in all the contributing countries and in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In Jamaica and Trinidad there are a number of sites in larger communities, while in Barbados and Trinidad the hospitals associated with the University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences are also linked to the network.


The regional context

While exhibiting a variety of socio-cultural forms, the territories served by the UWI are all marked by their history of colonial dependency as slave plantation economies in the British Empire. Their populations are predominantly of African origin, with a group originating in the Indian

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