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But is UWI doing enough to assist graduates to confront changes in international trading environment and implications for small, open economies like ours? There is only so much that institutions of region, such as UWI can do. The business sector armed with a more educated workforce must now do rest.
One thing is certain. UWI has over years engendered a spirit of regional cooperation and Caribbean identity. Without a doubt, University, as a regional institution, has served as a beacon in bringing people and countries of region together. To suggest otherwise is to be overly critical and to underscore efforts of Governments, University Officials and Graduates who have contributed to this process. But amidst these efforts, University Officials admit that numbers of OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) registrants continue to decline. More and more students of region are looking towards programmes at foreign universities, albeit self funded and more expensive. Why is that? The answer may lie in fact that university has itself failed to adapt to changing climate.
The present economic climate requires regionís tertiary learning institutions to swiftly provide a broad base of skilled professionals. This, it is believed, will set in motion potential for region to compete with mega trade blocs that have emerged, in recent time. This requires that our learning institutions facilitate more wide spread and affordable access to education for people of region. The Developed Countries have resorted to online distant learning programmes to achieve this objective. Admittedly, one of compelling shortcomings of UWI is that while major universities around world have successfully established reputable online learning programmes, ďUWI is still trying to play catch up.Ē The absence of an effective online learning programme that facilitates widespread and cost effective access to tertiary education, says it all. In context of our geography, it is indicative of Universityís inability to adequately position itself to meet needs of people and countries of region.
Who is to say that UWIís strategies and timing are not in keeping with demonstrated needs of its people? The real question is what role should UWI play in preparing region for CSME. Is there a defined role or a specific aspect for which it should assume responsibility? The issue of whether UWI is doing enough or what it should be doing will remain a topic for debate. What is beyond dispute is that UWI can and should be doing more to prepare region for challenges of CSME.
Eldonna Lendor is a Corporate Attorney and Small Business Strategist. She is the CEO of http://www.patantconsult.com and publisher of eXplosion!, an ezine which provides advice to small business entrepreneurs. She is the co-founder of http://www.talkcsme.blogspot.com, a blog, which discusses issues affecting persons and businesses in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).