Beckles Announces UWI Second Language Proficiency for Graduation

New students must acquire 2nd language to graduate says UWI Vice-Chancellor at Toronto gala

By Lincoln DePradine

Language proficiency for students to graduate from the University of the West Indies (UWI) –irrespective of their program of study – now has been mandated by university administrators.

UWI, in one of a few “very bold decisions’’, has declared itself a “multi-lingual university’’, said Sir Hilary Beckles, the university’s vice-chancellor.

Sir Hilary Beckles

“All students entering the university must acquire proficiency in a language other than English before they graduate,’’ Sir Hilary said Saturday in Toronto.

“We are offering our students African languages, Asian languages, European languages; they have a variety of languages from which they can choose to improve their proficiency before they go into the world as mobile young people.’’

Sir Hilary was in Toronto to participate in the 15th Annual UWI Toronto Benefit Awards. “Lighting the Way Together’’ was the theme of the gala fundraiser

MP Marci Ien, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, said the theme couldn’t be a “more appropriate’’, as “together means lifting as we rise; together means mentorship; together means learning from one another; and “together means moving forward with deliberate kindness and acts of empathy’’.

Sir Hilary thanked attendees for “coming to this urgent call for financial assistance of yet another cohort of bright, creative, accomplished Caribbean youth who, through no fault of their own, find themselves economically impoverished; though, intellectually very empowered.’’

He highlighted some of the UWI’s achievements over the past year, saying the university must continue to expand to “meet the needs of all the people of the Caribbean, while simultaneously “enhancing excellence’’ but “without compromising quality’’.

UWI is number one among more than 200 universities in the Caribbean, and also “ranked in the top one percent of all universities in Latin America and the Caribbean from a field of some 2000 universities. And, we are ranked in the top three percent of the finest universities in the world; a field of 32,000 universities,’’ said vice-chancellor Beckles.

“We’re very proud of this achievement,’’ he said.  “We are the engine of Caribbean development and a force for democratic justice.’’

Four years ago, UWI and Brock University established a joint Canada-Caribbean Institute. It’s now been expanded to seven Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto, Sir Hilary announced.

As of September, he added, UWI will be enrolling students from all over the world in an online Master’s program in the ‘s newly established International School for Development Justice.

Sir Hilary also disclosed that UWI has been chosen by the International Association of Universities to be the “lead advocate on climate change in the world.

“The UWI has the longest series of systematic research on climate change. For 50 years, we have been talking about rising sea levels; we have been talking about rising sea temperatures; we have been talking about the destruction of the coral reefs and the erratic movement of fish,’’ the vice-chancellor said.

“Fifty year, we have been the whistleblowers but they were not listening to us. But now, they are. And now they have said, well done UWI; now, we’ll respect you and celebrate you for your work.’’