The University of the West Indies’ new Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda crossed yet another milestone on Monday, April 6, 2020, when its Council met for the first time. In a virtual meeting setting, members of the Campus Council, chaired by Mr Aziz Hadeed, heard a report on the campus’ accomplishments since its opening in September 2019. The report which was presented by Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal, Professor Stafford Griffith, highlighted many firsts for the campus and an overall success in operations to establish a fully functional UWI campus to better serve the OECS.
Considered the annual business meetings of the regional University, Campus Council meetings are a fundamental aspect of accountability for The UWI, at which the Principals of each of its campuses report to their governing bodies on all activities undertaken over the last academic year to the Council membership and larger stakeholder community.
During his presentation, Professor Griffith reported that over the past seven months the campus staged its first matriculation ceremony, conducted its first end-of-semester examinations; hosted its first international seminar; installed its first student guild and president, and celebrated its first official student guild activity. He also noted that in the campus’ first year of recruitment, a total of 200 students were enrolled and that the aim is to double enrolment each year, over the next three years. Professor Griffith spoke extensively of the unwavering institutional support as well as endorsement and assistance received from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. In 2019, he also visited six OECS countries and met with members of government and education officials to determine how best their development needs could be served through the campus.
In addition, Professor Griffith gave some insight into the campus’ response to COVID-19. He indicated that a working group has been established at the campus to manage the response to the pandemic and guide on mitigating operational challenges during this period. Among these include the implementation of distance teaching until national stay-at-home advisories are removed.
Interim Campus Director of Academic Affairs, Hyram Forde was given the opportunity to speak to the preparation, administration and results of the first examinations, concluding they were a success. Interim Director of Finance and Administration, Daniella Hickling also addressed the Council members, highlighting aspects of student administration, services and support, human resources, facilities and maintenance, and information technology. A report from first student guild President, Caleb Gardiner was also part of the meeting’s proceedings.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles congratulated Professor Griffith and the entire UWI Five Islands team for assuring successful pursuit and implementation of The UWI’s strategic plan. The Vice-Chancellor stated, “It is an historic time for education.” He added, “This is the best of times, for the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda, the OECS states, the Caribbean region, and The UWI in bringing this Five Islands Campus into full operation. It is the worst of times in that we are doing this within the context of a global pandemic that is threatening to destroy all that we have created and is an existential threat to the civilisation of the Caribbean.”
Chairman of the Five Islands Campus Council, Mr Hadeed expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve in the role. He underscored the unique circumstances of hosting the milestone event via videoconference while the country was adhering to a 24-hour lockdown and health and safety protocols.
The proceedings of the open session of Campus Council Meetings are traditionally made available for public viewing/participation via UWItv as part of The UWI’s commitment to transparency and engagement of its stakeholders. A closed virtual meeting was held in this instance due to the conditions resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Recordings of the proceedings aired on UWItv cable channels on Flow EVO, on Wednesday, April 15 and Friday, April 17.