Professor Clive Landis is the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Studies at the UWI and delivered this talk during the oath taking ceremony of the students of medicine at St Augustine.
What a pleasure it is for me to be here on this joyous occasion to bring remarks to this Oath Taking Ceremony. These are the types of occasions that make the job of being a University administrator worthwhile, to see students looking so accomplished and happy celebrating their achievements in the presence of family and friends.
But my satisfaction and my contribution towards the achievement of our students taking part in this Ceremony tonight pales into insignificance compared to the sacrifices that each of you in this room has made, either as the student who toiled long and hard or as their supporter who walked every step of the way to make this journey possible.
So, it is reasonable for you to ask after all the hard work and the sacrifice: What is the value of the medical education and the degree our graduates earn with The University of the West Indies?
It is under my portfolio as Pro Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Studies that the responsibility lies to assure the quality and the integrity of the UWI degree. It was under a distant predecessor in this post, now Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, that the Quality Assurance Unit was formed over three decades ago and it is through the hard work and dedication of the wonderful staff in the many quality organs of the University that The UWI has been able to assiduously build an effective Quality Management System. But let me be clear, despite all this effort and the dedication and the quality systems in place, it is still not enough for me to stand here as an officer of this institution simply to exhort the value of a UWI degree. I might after all be biased.
To answer the question what is the value of the UWI degree you have to open your institution to external scrutiny by independent arbiters of quality. This is the work of the accrediting agencies and the ranking agencies. And there is something wonderfully detached about the international inspection teams that visit our local campuses and our programmes and put us through the proverbial wringer; they really don’t care about any difficulties or challenges we might be facing in your own environment. They just say it like it is and it is up to you as a University to achieve the required standard.
Let us start with the institutional accreditation of the St. Augustine Campus. UWI St. Augustine was re-accredited by the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago in 2017 receiving the maximum permissible seven-year period of accreditation. And please don’t think this Accreditation is a parochial exercise – the inspection team included some of the most experienced and demanding educators drawn from the UKK and USA who assessed the institution against international quality benchmarks adopted by the Accreditation Council. In granting the maximum accreditation to the St. Augustine Campus the assessors made special praise of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which supports lecturers in their teaching pedagogy and which issues postgraduate certificates in Undergraduate Teaching and Learning. Accreditation means that the UWI degree is recognized by other accredited universities, allowing students for example to transfer credits with other recognized universities.
Next comes the programmatic accreditation by the professional medical body, the Caribbean Accreditation Agency for Medical and Health Professionals (CAAM-HP). Thus far, CAAM-HP has assessed the degree programmes for the MBBS, DDS and DVM. Again, the visiting CAAM-HP team in 2018 extended accreditation to the maximum permissible period for these St. Augustine programmes, and again the team of assessors comprised internationally renowned medical practitioners and researchers.
But on the degree scroll that the students receive it does not say “St. Augustine”: the degree granting authority is “The University of the West Indies”. So how has our venerable regional University stacked up against the mighty universities around the globe? The UWI history is well known to most: UWI has grown from humble origins with a founding class of just 33 medical students in Jamaica in 1948 as the Medical College of the West Indies – an offshoot of University College London. By 1963 The University of the West Indies had achieved full independence as a degree granting University. And it has since grown into this wonderful regional University – quite unique in the world for having campuses in sovereign countries – that we know today. Last year, during UWI’s 70th Anniversary Year, we received news that UWI had been ranked for the first time by the leading global University ranking agency, Times Higher Education. Times Higher Education ranked The University of the West Indies as: The # 1 University in the Caribbean, among the top 3% of universities in Latin America and the Caribbean, and among the top 5% of universities in the world!! Times Higher Education estimates there are around 30’000 universities in the world. There is some uncertainty about this number since many universities seem to spring up almost overnight … and then disappear again without trace. But that is not the case with UWI. In fact, at the heart of UWI is the CARICOM Grande Anse Declaration of 1989 which enshrined that The University of the West Indies would remain a regional institution in perpetuity. And it is in significant measure the consistent support from government to government across the region, from one administration to the next, that has allowed the University to flourish. And for that we are very grateful. The UWI’s part in this covenant is to dedicate ourselves at all times to the educational and development needs of the Caribbean people.
In ending my remarks, I return to the question: what is the value of the medical education and the degree our graduates have earned this evening? You have heard that The UWI has spent decades laying a sound Quality Management System and you have heard that the University has subjected itself at every level to external accrediting and ranking agencies. And you have heard that a covenant exists in perpetuity between UWI and the governments and people of the Caribbean. So, it is therefore with confidence that I am able to stand before you this evening to assure you of the value and integrity of the UWI degree, that has met the highest international standards and is recognized internationally. And in case you were wondering … who deserves the credit for this great Caribbean institution?
Previous Vice Chancellor Rex Nettleford had the answer: He said: “The University of the West Indies is the greatest gift of the Caribbean people to themselves”. This is your University.