“A significant milestone in the development of the UWI Five Island Campus” is how Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, described Tuesday signing of the US$80 million loan for the expansion of the campus over the next five years.
Noting that the event occurred on the eve of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the University of the West Indies Sir Hilary said the move to develop UWI FIC comes on the heels of UWI’s recognition among the top universities in the world.
UWI is already the top university in the region.
Sir Hilary revealed that UWI’s 75th anniversary celebrations are being held under the theme, Rooted, Ready and Rising to signify the university’s place among the people of the Caribbean.
“While our university is an elite institution, we are not elitist!” he declared.
The Vice Chancellor said the UWI’s mandate is to make education accessible to all as part of the process of democratising the region.
Also addressing the ceremony was the Campus Chairman, Aziz Hadeed, who drew parallels between the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s shared commitment to education.
Unlike Crown Prince Mohammed, Hadeed said Prime Minister Browne has had to work hard to achieve the goal of making education more affordable and accessible to the people of Antigua and Barbuda within a much smaller space and with significantly less resources.
“Today, we see the vision of our prime minister and that of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman coming together in this loan agreement for UWI FIC. It represents a national investment with national, regional and potentially global impact,” he stated.
Meanwhile, UWI FIC’s Principal, Dr. Denzil Williams, outlined the short, medium and long-term development plans for the institution and a projected timeline within which these plans are expected to come to fruition.
15He said securing the money necessary to finance the expansion of the university is an investment in the future of Antigua and Barbuda and the OECS.
Dr. Williams also underscored the direct correlation between the increase in the number of students attending the university and the country’s economic growth.
In the presentation of a PowerPoint themed, “Building for the future: Let the Revolution Begin”, Professor Williams provided insight into the master plan for the expansion and development of the university.
These include increased and improved student facilities, a food court, administration block, state of the art classrooms, and several sporting facilities.
A modern theatre building capable of accommodating live performances is also a new feature.
As part of the development, which is projected to be completed by 2027, the Five Islands Primary School will be relocated, and its campus will be subsumed by the UWI FIC.
In his presentation, Education Minister, Daryll Matthew, explained the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s philosophy regarding education and the role of the UWI FIC in these plans.
“The purpose, the mission, and the vision of the UWI FIC are fully aligned with the priorities of the Ministry of Education and Sports and my personal conviction that access to education is a right for everyone.
“At the national level, there is consensus about the social and economic benefits of education in developing countries for current and future generations.
“UWI FIC aims to improve and expand access to this process of education in the Eastern Caribbean states by offering high-demand, high-quality programmes, targeting the local and regional populations and in collaboration with like-minded partners, including the Saudi Development Fund,” Matthew stated.
With the funding fully secured, it is anticipated that the expansion of the university will begin shortly.