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PM: UWI Is Bridge To Regional Integration

The success of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is but one telling example of functional integration within and throughout the region, according to Prime Minister Perry Christie.

Mr. Christie was addressing delegates from UWI who were holding their annual business meeting in the country on Friday.

“It should be clear to anyone who would question the willingness of our political leadership towards the deepening of the integration movement, that one need look no further than at the success of the University of the West Indies,” the prime minister said.

“Here is an institution that began in Jamaica and today it has some 54,000 students in permanent campuses at Mona, in Jamaica, Cave Hill in Barbados, and St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago. There are open campuses across the region and of course, we are happy to host an open campus here in The Bahamas. I fear to think what our Caribbean society would have been like without the presence of this institution.

“We acknowledge that there are challenges that confront the university. One such challenge is that the field of higher education is becoming more and more competitive, particularly in light of the global competition for students and the fact that technology has made access to education far greater than when the university first open its doors. But these are the challenges that we must overcome if we are to forge ahead in developing a truly unique Caribbean institution.”

Over the past month, the prime minister has spoken to several institutions abroad including the University College of the Cayman Islands at the 2014 UCCI/UWI Caribbean Conference on the theme –“Towards a Corrupt Free Caribbean: Ethics, Values, Trust and Morality.”

He also spoke at UWI’s St. Augustine Campus on The Bahamas in CARICOM and prior to that at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science in Coral Gables.

“All three of these engagements brought home forcibly the intricate linkages between pure academic discourse and research and public policy,” he said.

“Too often we in the arena of politics and public policy fail to take full advantage of what should be an integral link between what is taught and being researched and what we do in the formulation of public policy. By the same token, there are some in the academy who fail to see the practical application of that in which they are engaged in enhancing development outside the walls of academia.

“But even when we both acknowledge that what we as policy leaders require and what the academy provides can be beneficial to a wider world, there is no suitable bridge, no common meeting ground through which such open dialogue and frequent encounter can take place.”

Prime Minister Christie said another area where the university should lead and be keen to co-operate with governments is in the planning and development of tourism.

“We all know the value of tourism to the overall economic strength of the Caribbean,” he said.

“It is the golden apple that has for the main part supplemented or in some cases replaced the agricultural economy in terms of its foreign exchange earnings and its employment multi-plier. It would be interesting to know just how much collaboration there is between the hallowed halls of the university and this most vital sector of our economy.

“In the case of tourism, I would also note that there is a strong link to the environment and here again, how much of the university’s research on the environment – weather patterns, hurricanes, deforestation, marine disasters and the pollution of our waters make their way into the policy matrix of governments in the region.”

Mr. Christie also said that the financial services is another industry where the university can foster regional integration.

“The making of a great financial services centre involves the process of ensuring that your services-based economy works well, while also ensuring that your economy supports creativity and innovation,” he said.

“As governments, we need to share our concerns on this area of challenge to our economy and if necessary we must commission those with an academic interest in these matters to provide studies and to create resource base from which our governments can draw on in formulating public policy.

“There is a great connectivity between what we as politicians do and are pledged to do and what you do in the halls of academia. For our part in The Bahamas we have begun this process of engaging those who can provide us with research options that can help us in moving our society along.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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