Some years ago Dr. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, noted that Barbados was a nation “punching above its weight”. This description is an indication of the respect that Barbados enjoys in the international community and the regional University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus in Barbados feels justifiably pride at the contribution it has made to Barbados’ position on the world stage.

A small nation of 166 square miles with a population of little more than 280,000, and with limited natural resources, Barbados is listed at #42 in the 2010 Human Development Index. Barbados is the highest ranked among Latin America and Caribbean countries, with only the US and Canada having higher ranking in our hemisphere. This ranking is a tribute to the investment that successive governments of Barbados have made in the development of its greatest resource – its people.

The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus has played a critically important role in the country’s human resource development. The alacrity with which the then Premier of Barbados welcomed the location of the third UWI campus in Barbados, in 1963, indicated his understanding of the contribution that a university could make to his country’s development; and from its inception the Cave Hill Campus sought to keep in step with national and regional needs. In the early days its focus was on the training of the nation’s teachers and civil servants, who were needed to support a newly independent country. However, over the last ten years, the Campus’ expansion, especially in the area of the Social Sciences, with undergraduate and graduate programmes in management studies and accounting, has reflected the needs of the private sector, as well as the students’ astute reading of their best employment prospects.

More recently the Campus has placed even greater emphasis on the development of graduate programmes, especially in specialized areas that support the needs of the public sector and the business community. We launched programmes in tourism and hospitality management, construction management, wealth and investment management, banking and finance, e-governance for developing countries, electronic commerce, labour and employment relations and public law. With the support of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean International Development Agency (CIDA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) we also launched the highly successful Masters in International Trade Policy (MITP) offered by the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services. One of the main aims of the Centre is to help the region to engage effectively in international trade policy in order to improve our competitiveness in the international marketplace. In time for its fortieth anniversary of dedicated service to country and region, we upgraded the School of Clinical Medicine and Research into a full medical faculty that is now internationally accredited. Our medical doctors are accepted worldwide, subject of course to success in passing country-specific professional examinations. We must also recognize the stellar work of the Chronic Disease Research Centre in the area of noncommunicable diseases, especially diabetes and cancer.

Our reading of the future of Barbados and the region has indicated that we need to place still greater emphasis on science and technology; hence our new thrust over the next three years will be in scientific applications. We are getting ready to establish our Science and Technology Park, supported by a suite of new and innovative taught and research programmes. Cable and Wireless has agreed to fund a chair in digital technology and we will be offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in digital communications as well as in electronics and electronic engineering. Further, we have recently signed a contract with Biojet, one of the largest manufacturers of oil from algae, and we expect that there will be collaborative research projects in this area in the next year, as well as the construction of a Biojet laboratory. We are also in dialogue with the SOL Group to partner with us in the development of a laboratory complex for energy research and we have just received a grant of over US$700,00O from USAID which will allow the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) to develop graduate programmes in climate change. We are currently working with the Government of Barbados and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on a Green Economy Scoping Study and we are looking forward to further research collaborations with the public and private sectors of Barbados and the region.

This thrust into science and technology does not mean that we are placing less emphasis on our programmes in the faculties of Humanities and Education, Social Sciences and Law. In fact, these faculties, in addition to their traditional programmes, are developing a suite of new and exciting offerings, with the intention of internationalizing the Campus. Thus with support from the government of China we will begin the teaching of Mandarin very shortly and we expect to be able to offer an undergraduate degree in Chinese studies by the next academic year. We have also established several memoranda of understanding with Brazilian universities, under which we are undertaking collaborative teaching and research as well as bringing Brazilian students to the Campus. Indeed we already have over one hundred Venezuelan students studying English at Cave Hill. Our faculty in the Social Sciences continues to develop programmes that will articulate with programmes in the Pure and Applied Sciences. The Faculty of Law is a centre of excellence in English common law and property law and it is acknowledged to have the best legal library in the region. The Faculty has very recently established an Intellectual Property Unit (IP Unit) that will focus on research into intellectual issues regionally and internationally.

All of these activities support a key thrust of the regional UWI to become more entrepreneurial as a means to reduce the reliance on government funding. We are also trying to inculcate this same spirit of self-reliance in our students and Cave Hill, with support from the Bank of Nova Scotia, launched the Student Entrepreneurial Development Programme in 2007. The idea is that every student leaving the campus will have an understanding of what it takes to develop a small business and the agencies that could provide assistance. The support of the CIBC First Caribbean International Bank allowed us to translate theory into practice with the inaugural SEED business plan competition, which was held earlier this year. More formal training is being offered by the Cave Hill School of Business, through the MBA or the diploma programmes in entrepreneurship.

The Campus has also actively supported the growth in programmes and student numbers by expansion in infrastructure as well as in its administrative and teaching staff. We are proud of the 3Ws Oval and the state-of- the-art football and hockey fields, and we expect very shortly to complete the Ryan Braithwaite Athletic Track. However, we would not have had these achievements to date, nor could we have envisaged the plans for the future, without the support of the government of Barbados and the region, our private sectors and the dedication of our Campus community to whom we are greatly indebted.

About the Author

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles -

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles is Principal at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.