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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: UWI’s plans for private partnerships


TONY BEST

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: UWI’s plans for private partnerships

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PROFESSOR EUDINE BARRITEAU, the new principal of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) 6 000-student Cave Hill Campus, doesn’t believe in winging it, improvising and speaking without first studying the dimensions of an issue.

So, when she was asked the other day about her strategy to boost partnerships with the private sector, and for the school to play an even greater role in the economic development of Barbados and its Eastern Caribbean neighbours, her answers indicated she had given the subject careful thought.

Barriteau, who led the UWI’s Open Campus before succeeding Professor Sir Hilary Beckles cited research and the development of an agri-business and science park in St Thomas.

This is where the university owns 28 acres, a gift from the Edgehill family, and Barriteau sees this as a key element of a plan that locks the business community and the UWI in a mutually satisfying embrace.

“We have deepened the relationship with the business community,” she said. “We have excellent advanced plans for the 28.5 acres of land at Dukes and it’s being done under the leadership of Professor Leonard O’Garro, director of the Centre for Food Security.

“The lands are going to be developed into an agri-business and science park.”

That’s good news. When implemented, the multi dimensional park would consist of a chocolate academy, a black belly sheep leather tanning operation, the curing of sea island cotton and other activities that are of direct interest to the campus.

“This is very interesting because they are all areas that matter to the campus,” was the way Barriteau put it during a recent conversation after she visited New York for the annual fund-raising gala of the American Foundation for the UWI.

Take the case of the chocolate academy, one of the eye-catching elements of the plan.

It will combine university teaching and training that prepare students for careers as chocolatiers, highly-skilled craftsmen and women who have the artistic and technical expertise to blend different types of chocolate with other ingredients to fashion confectionery.

The graduates wouldn’t be chocolate makers. Many of the world’s leading chocolatiers are in Europe, especially in Belgium.

“The academy will teach persons to be gourmet chocolatiers,” explained the principal. “It will not be aimed simply at the Caribbean but will have international appeal. We are going to import [members of] the student body.

“If persons from the Caribbean wish to do it they can become involved. Some very vibrant members of the local business sector [in Barbados] have signed on for the academy.

“Yes, the relationship between Cave Hill and the business community that was molded under Sir Hilary continues to be strong. We intend to ensure it remains both strong and viable.”

Unlike the UWI’s St Augustine Campus in Trinidad, which already has a cocoa research unit that makes chocolate, Cave Hill will not be duplicating their work but will concentrate on the training of chocolatiers.

“We are not in the business of making chocolate for commercial uses,” was the way Barriteau put it.

Armed with Town & Country Planning Department’s approval to sub divide the land, Cave Hill is now turning to architects and others to fine-tune the agri-business plan which must still receive a Government stamp of approval.

But what about the financing of the development of the park? “There are five businesses of which the chocolate academy is but one” in the park, she explained. “It is being done in partnership with the People’s Republic of China in terms of financing.

“Happily, Professor O’Garro has already negotiated signed agreements with local companies to put high value-added products within the agri-business and science park.”

There is more to the strategy. The principal expects Barbados’ businesses to join in a partnership with the campus that accelerates research aimed at fuelling Eastern Caribbean development and central to that is research.

“We have lots of our colleagues on campus doing very good work,” she said. “I am extremely pleased with the research efforts of my colleagues but I want them to do more.

“For example, we have very good applied research coming from the Department of Economics coming from Professor Winston Moore. The key thing I am pushing very seriously is research for Caribbean development.”

Barriteau is right. A university is defined by two things: the quality of its research and by the post-graduate degrees it confers.

With a new generation of researchers waiting in the academic wings, Cave Hill is developing a mentoring programme for them and it would provide a pathway to the publication of findings, carving out research niches and translating findings into society’s needs.

Reseach is a road map to development planning and its quality can make a substantial difference in the formulation of expansion policies and their implementation.

With Sir Paul Altman, a prominent business owner, helping to guide the UWI-private sector partnership, the road is being effectively paved.

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