Islands act over technology gap

September 12, 2003

Trinidad and Tobago, the second largest component of the University of the West Indies, has decided to launch its own university because its government thinks the islands do not receive enough higher education support from the federation.

With a population of just over 1 million, Trinidad and Tobago is a key player in UWI, housing one of its three campuses. The government has made assurances that the new university will not lead to financial cuts for UWI, which relies on the 15 countries it serves.

Science, technology and tertiary education minister Danny Montano said Trinidad and Tobago had no choice but to launch a second university. "There are simply not enough places for students who wish to pursue tertiary education," he said.

The government said it wanted to provide a wider scope of training than that available at private and public institutions.

Few details about the university, due to open in September 2004, have been announced except that it will be a comprehensive two-campus university with schools of engineering, science, applied arts and humanities.

The university is expected to focus on the engineering and sciences side.

It will help to serve the country's growing oil and gas industry. Key players in the energy sector serve on its steering committee, including chairman Kenneth Julien, an adviser to the country's energy sub-committee and former chairman of the National Gas Company.

UWI dean of engineering Clement Sankat said one of the main reasons he thought the government decided to launch its own university was due to increased training needs for those running plants in the oil, gas, chemical and food sectors. He believes these industries might provide key financial support to the university.

Dr Sankat, who works in the UWI campus in St Augustine, Trinidad, did not feel a second engineering school would threaten his faculty. He thought the government would use the new university's engineering school to train engineering technologists, leaving UWI to develop its research and postgraduate studies.

He said he would hate to see the two universities competing for the same areas. "I'm hopeful they won't go that route."

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