Don's Diary

July 14, 1995

SUNDAY. Lazy day. Swim as usual for last hour before sunset. Greet consultant who meets us on beach as we come out. He has arrived today, from British Open University, and has been working with us since a visit last year on a survey of educational needs in the non-campus countries. Sunset almost coincides with moonrise. Wonder how often that happens: one of those questions one never gets round to finding the answer to.

MONDAY. To Jamaica for meeting of steering group for Caribbean Development Project which funds much of my work. Most people there are from Barbados or Trinidad. Difficult issues. I do not carry my colleagues all the way on more than 40 per cent of the matters discussed. Most of the other 60 per cent are deferred so not too downhearted. Odd how most don's diary meetings are full of sweetness and light.

Watch CNN. Regret for 1000th time Foreign and Commonwealth Office blindness that refused funding for BBC World Service TV when proposed before CNN started.

TUESDAY. Spend morning on campus chasing people, locating three out of six. Try to ensure welcome for new staff member arriving to be based here in two weeks. Urge administration to encourage him to bring his computer equipment: his desktop publishing set-up sounds more sophisticated than anything we can supply quickly. Fly back through Miami. Spirits rise at sight of America. Maybe it was growing up in the 1940s that leaves me with an unshakeable belief, despite the religious right, Gingrich and all the rest, that America is the land of marvels and opportunity. Delayed two hours by plane's flat tyre. Feelings about America droop a bit. Optimism is a dangerous drug. Remind myself it could be much worse: wife recently deposited in Iceland by same airline when trying to fly from London to Barbados.

WEDNESDAY. Two days at my desk this week. Discuss presentation of report on distance-education needs with consultant. Good meeting with law faculty. Different style and language from other meetings. We agree course priorities within a proposed certificate in advanced legal studies. First choices are legal systems of the Caribbean and criminal law I: crime is always popular. Ask whether different sentencing policies in different territories in the region come under one paper or the other. Discuss possibility of importing courses from outside in areas like contract and tort where the subject matter is the same as in England. Manage to avoid being put in cells which are allegedly (advisedly?) kept for those guilty of contempt of dean.

THURSDAY. The main theme of the Barbados days this week is to make progress on course development where funds are now available and we are anxious to move quickly. Good meeting with dean of arts. Main purpose is to talk about course development but we move on to discuss the role of the West Indies economy in English 18th-century industrialisation. One recent estimate is 2 per cent of GDP at the right time, but there is also a suggestion that 2 per cent was critical. Much more interesting than talking about education.

FRIDAY. Go to Trinidad for the day. 6.30am flight means 5.10am departure from home. Horribly early, but it does make a nearly full working day there possible, thanks to new airline.

Chair first of three planned sessions in which consultant and staff colleague can discuss findings of needs assessment survey and their implication for faculty. Usual problem of not wanting to believe the findings I do not like; remain unconvinced that more management courses will raise the economic prospects of the Caribbean or enrich people's lives.

Seminar moves away from formal agenda to general discussion of where the university has got to in distance education. Usual points about balance between bottom-up and top-down planning.

SATURDAY. Another seminar. This is an open one on what distance education is and where the university has got to. Saturday morning is not ideal but nor is any other time.

Explore familiar dilemma: do we build things up on the basis of the enthusiasts, who want to see the university become a multimode institution, or do we work across the departments in order to get a coherent programme of courses, for which we know there is a demand? Try to argue for having the best of both worlds.

Then drive to south coast to pick up former colleague from Commonwealth Secretariat, who is briefly in the region, for lunch, news of friends, and an extra swim for him, before returning him to airport.

Hilary Perraton Educational planner for distance education at the University of the West Indies, based at the Cave Hill campus in Barbados.

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