By Dr Carlton Mills
Recently, the Turks and Caicos Islands government became a contributing territory to the University of the West Indies. This debate has been around for decades as to whether the government should or should not become a contributing territory to the university. Some years ago, this was done but only with one campus. It has now become a reality. The new PNP administration deserves credit for what has been deemed a progressive step.
Dr Carlton Mills is a graduate of Excelsior Community College and the University of the West Indies where he pursued his training in teacher education and Bachelors in History respectively. He is also a graduate of the University of London, Bristol and Sheffield where he pursued his Master’s and Doctorate in Education respectively. Dr Mills was appointed as Minister of Education in 2007 where he served until February 2009. Following the suspension of the TCI Constitution, he was invited by the governor to serve on the Advisory Council. He served for six months before resigning. Dr Mills is the main editor of the recently published book “The History of the Turks and Caicos Islands”. He has written several articles for journals and chapters in other books and presented papers at various conferences in the region and in the UK.
During the debate in the House of Assembly, all parties concerned, unanimously registered their support for this initiative. There are however, some concerns that seem to have not been given some attention at least during the debate.
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) students, when they go to study in the United Kingdom, are treated as home students. Have we determined whether from a cost perspective if it’s more economical to send students to UWI or to the UK? Have we done a comparative analysis to determine where will we get more value for our dollars?
When one considers the Caribbean, there are three main campuses of the University of the West Indies compared to several university choices in the UK. We are also talking about the home of some of the world’s top universities from where many of our own people have graduated. I am not disputing the quality of education offered by UWI. I am a graduate of this noble institution. In fact, I have had the privilege of being able to pursue studies at both the Mona and the Cave Hill campuses.
The experiences for our students in the UK tend to be much more wholesome. We talk about UWI enabling us to become a better Caribbean man or person. I don’t know exactly what this means but what I do know is that the TCI needs to think on a global stage. Compare the level of Caribbean investment in the TCI to that of the more developed world.
The other concern that I have has to do with the recent increase in tuition fees by UWI. What impact will this have on the MOU that was recently signed and also, how will these increases in tuition affect students who wish to study at UWI but have not obtain a scholarship from the TCI government? When negotiating the MOU, were there discussions about possible tuition or other increases?
This is not to say that we should not try to identify more with our Caribbean neighbours. As a small developing country, we have to determine what is best for our students and where can they obtain the best education possible.
Another issue has to do with matriculation. One of the UWI’s main forms of matriculation is the “A” Levels and now, Caribbean Advance Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). The Associate Degree is also another option. No schools in the TCI write CAPE. Only one now does the British Advance Examinations. The Turks and Caicos Islands Community College students pursue the Associate Degree programmes.
The question then is, as a part of the MOU, have our officials discussed with UWI how best students can matriculate into UWI with the Associate Degrees offered by the Community College? Have we discussed issues such as advance placement? Have we taken time to review the programmes that are being offered by the Community College to determine if they are relevant and the extent to which these programmes can articulate into UWI’s programmes?
If no proper arrangement is in place for students who graduate with the Associate Degrees from the College to enter UWI, what impact will this have on numbers? Will we depend only on the small numbers graduating from the British West Indies Collegiate? In fact, how many of these students who graduate from the Collegiate will go to UWI? Several of the families of these students are from Europe, Canada and the USA. Where do you think they will send their children to study?
If it has not yet been done, I strongly suggest that the ministry of education commence discussions with UWI on a formal articulation arrangement with the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College. Students need the assurance that their qualifications received has the currency to propel them into higher education.