News Releases

UWI’s Higher Education Conference – a call for action

For Release Upon Receipt - July 7, 2015


The University of the West Indies, Vice-Chancellery. 07 July 2015 The UWI conference on Institutionalising Best Practice in Higher Education, held at the St Augustine Campus from June 24 to 26, ended on a high note with calls for a revolution in higher education.

Keynote speaker on day one of the conference Dr Claudia Harvey, stated, “To institutionalise best practices in higher education in the Caribbean, there must be conscious attention to honing a culture of quality.” Using the case of Cuba as an example of best practice in the delivery of higher education, she stated, “need a revolution in the way in which we think to make best use of our resources.”  Reinforcing the need for a revolution in higher education and a culture of quality, Professor Dan Butin of Merrimack College in the United States, suggested that to transform and engage students, higher education professionals need to consider “flipping the university.” He added, “This would involve making the student the centre of teaching, with discussion and authentic, project centred learning as the core of the flipped university.”

The idea of the student as centre and the importance of authentic learning were further endorsed by keynote speaker Dr Paul Kim of Stanford University, who addressed participants on the final day of the conference. Speaking on the topic:  Academic Excellence in the Post MOOC Era: Lessons Learned on Technology Best Practice, Dr Kim stated, “Overall, the digital future in higher education is obvious and will be phenomenal.” He talked about the importance of students having access to the digital world and being able to actively engage in a learning environment.

Delivering the feature address at the formal opening of the conference, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles noted, “To foster best practice, we must insist upon expansion, diversity and higher education cost reduction.”  He called for a culture of innovation and wealth generation, while Principal of the St Augustine Campus Professor Clement Sankat highlighted the Campus’s commitment to programme and institutional accreditation as a best practice in external quality assurance.

Catherine Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Teresa White, Group Human Resource Director, ANSA McAL Group of Companies made suggestions for improving the partnership between higher education institutions and the business sector.  These included encouraging structured internship opportunities and developing programmes to address the number one challenge of talent faced by the private sector.  Ms Kumar supported a call from Vice-Chancellor Beckles for greater innovation and alignment of higher education with the needs of the region, by suggesting strategies for innovation. Representing The UWI student perspective, former President of the Guild of Students from The UWI Cave Hill Campus, Damani Parris, called for greater attention to the development of 21st century student services that meet the needs of millennials.

Another high point of the conference was confirmation by the Deputy Principal of The UWI St Augustine Campus, Professor Rhoda Reddock, that the campus would be increasing its services which cater to student development by launching a new Division of Student Services, on August 01, 2015.

Hosted by The UWI’s Quality Assurance Unit and Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, the conference sought to address some of the current challenges faced by regional higher education institutions. Over the three days a mix of regional and international subject matter experts shared experience and practical solutions for infusing best practice principles with over 150 registered participants from across the region. Session topics ranged from transitioning to online teaching, flipping the classroom and exploring foreign language teaching in the online environment to strategies for financing higher education, and using peer assessment as a learning tool. Selected UWI best practices were also presented. The conference received the support of sponsors such as  Huawei Technologies (T&T) Limited, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), National Institute of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (NIHERST) and the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT).

Outcomes over the three days included reflections on integrating best practice principles in higher education and suggestions for action. These were echoed during panel discussions, discussion circles and presentations by higher education practitioners from various tertiary level institutions, representatives of the business community as well as a UWI student representative. Based on the deliberations from the sessions, several suggestions were outlined as key initiatives to institutionalise best practices in the Caribbean region. Most common among these were that tertiary institutions should:


  • Develop institutional missions and strategies based on CARICOM priorities for the region, engaging staff and other stakeholders
  • Provide rewards and sanctions as applicable
  • Create more documentation and sharing of processes to avoid duplication
  • Pay greater attention to evaluation of actions
  • Ensure leadership resides in each individual
  • Improve communication in institutions
  • Adopt the principles of a learning organisation
  • Include more authentic, relevant learning, which requires more involvement of all stakeholders and
  • Identify alternative sources of funding for higher education


Further suggestions from the conference deliberations and the conference papers will be made available digitally via The University’s online repository in the coming weeks. 

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a fully-fledged, regional University with over 50,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with three physical campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and an Open Campus. The UWI serves 17 English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, The British Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. The UWI’s faculty and students come from more than 40 countries and The University has collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation.


About The Quality Assurance Unit

The Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) supports the work of the Boards for Undergraduate Studies (BUS) and Graduate Studies and Research (BGSR) in the Vice Chancellery or the Regional Head Quarters of The UWI. With its mandate for quality assurance of the academic programmes across The UWI, specifically reviews and quality evaluations (reviews of procedures and processes in place to monitor quality), the QAU contributes to standard setting and the preservation of the regionality of the University.


About The Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

The Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), St. Augustine was established to enhance the quality of teaching of the University’s lecturers, teaching assistants and tutors. From its inception, the Centre has engaged in a range of professional development activities that seek to provide teaching staff with the requisite pedagogical skills to improve the learning that takes place in their classrooms, as well as strategies for gaining knowledge about trends and developments in learning and teaching in higher education.