The socio-cultural impact of the five UWI islands to match sister universities
By Shermain Bique-Charles
The fourth campus landed of the University of the West Indies (UWI) at Five Islands in Antigua is expected to have a socio-cultural impact similar to that of the other campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, despite the obvious differences in its reconcile.
Historically, the Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses have contributed significantly to the development of young Caribbean nationals, thanks to the rich campus culture and engagement on social issues.
However, with the number of students at The UWI Five Islands being significantly smaller than others and the emphasis on digitization at the expense of in-person interaction, it would seem that “campus life”, which has played a huge role in the development of the other three campuses, cannot be replicated in the Antigua-based university.
But that is not the case, according to Cave Hill alumni Ambassador Dorbrene O’Marde, the ambassador plenipotentiary responsible for Antigua and Barbuda’s restorative justice program, who argues that the campus of the five islands is a work in progress.
“Cave Hill was absolutely no different. The campus had only a few foreign students and the majority were part-time Barbadian students. They were part-time, they were teachers, they worked in public service and so there was campus life in that sense, but it took time,” he said.
Ambassador O’Marde further explained that during his time at Cave Hill, campus life began to develop within the context of Pan-Africanism and with an emphasis on regionalism as well. The same, he reiterated, is possible for Five Islands, albeit in a different context.
“My years at Cave Hill were largely spent forming a student concept,” he said.
As for alumni, UWI’s other three campuses feature a “who’s who” of Caribbean icons, including PJ Patterson and Derek Walcott at Mona; Owen Arthur and Dr. Keith Mitchell at Cave Hill; to Dr Keith Rowley and David Granger in St Augustine.
Reflecting on the impact of alumni on its development, O’Marde noted that UWI graduates could also have a role to play in cultivating that culture at The UWI Five Islands.
UWI Five Islands officially opened in September 2019, offering a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programs.