Principal of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus, the Hon. Professor Gordon Shirley, has said that steps have been taken to address some of the challenges affecting the institution, arising from the global economic downturn.
Speaking at the launch of the campus’ engineering programme at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre on Monday (Nov. 9), Professor Shirley noted that factors such as debt, crime, poor linkages between key industries, poor integration of industries that generate foreign direct investments, and reduced access to global financial markets, have placed the country at a “juncture”.
“We understand what our problems are (and) we have to address these. We need to address the fiscal balance problem; we obviously need a strong response to the crime problem, we need to think carefully about investing in the re-designing of our infrastructure so that it becomes resistant to destruction every time we have a natural hazard occurring. We need to improve the linkages between our manufacturing and our technical companies with the investments that flow in, and we need to focus our education which is applied (and), which is linked to economic growth,” he contended.
To this end, Professor Shirley informed that the UWI undertook several pursuits during the last year. These, he said, included a number of “relevant” research and advisory projects, and analyses “for the Government and the community within Jamaica.”
These comprise research seminars and policy papers on the fiscal and tax reform policies; conferences on the energy policy, crime management and policing, hazard mapping and mitigation mechanisms, labour market reform, remittance flows, the expansion of food production, linkages between agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, entrepreneurship; and seminars on the gaming industry, health care, and so on.
“And, we have been building our capacity for what we refer to as evidence-based criticism to strengthen the policy debates in a variety of areas,” he outlined.
Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, the Hon. Professor Gordon Shirley, O.J. (left), greets Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mining and Energy, Ms. Hilary Alexander, at the launch of the institution’s newly introduced three-year Bachelor of Science (BSc.) Electronic Engineering degree programme, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre, UWI, today (November 9).
Consequent on the institution’s far-reaching involvement, Professor Shirley said the Vice Chancellor introduced an entity, UWI Consulting, to streamline such activities. Further, he said the UWI’s affiliate organisation, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) “has become quite vocal” on a range of issues, adding that “we are strengthening a variety of other areas to respond to policy initiative.”
“We (UWI) are an important contact between ourselves, as a country, and the international research institutions, and we do this through our participation, both, when we go to conferences internationally, (and) when we invite international speakers, who can add value to our debate and dialogue, to participate in our conferences. Our faculty members have to be linked into the international community and we, (at) almost all of our conferences have international persons of repute participating with us,” he informed, while pointing to a number of ongoing joint research projects with universities and research institutions in North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa.
Professor Shirley also highlighted the UWI’s centres of excellence, which he described as “critical to the innovative capacity of the country”. These include: research centres in medical sciences, such as the Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI), agriculture, bio-technology, information technology, geo-infomatics, among others.
The UWI Mona, through the Electronics Unit in the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science, began offering the Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in Electronics Engineering, effective September. The new programme forms part of the institution’s decision to expand its engineering disciplines to other campuses, starting with Mona, where there has been increased demand for same.
The institution anticipates the introduction of additional programmes at Mona in 2010, focussing on areas such as: renewable energy; energy management and engineering; and biomedical engineering.
The campus will also facilitate preparation of Jamaican students for advanced placement in traditional engineering programmes such as power engineering, civil engineering and mechanical engineering.