By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE University of The Bahamas (UB) has started four “key initiatives” expected to realign the concept of tertiary level education in The Bahamas over several years, according to some of the institution’s top academic, financial and management officials.
With the view clearly set on institutional accreditation, strategic planning, data management and capital works, the contingent led by UB President Dr Rodney Smith yesterday laid out plans and concepts all geared toward “aggressively” making the institution more “viable and competitive”.
Dr Smith, who chaired a “media information meeting”, said while the initiatives currently being undertaken by UB often take other institutions several years, his team is ready to get them done in a shorter time.
Dr Smith confirmed that UB has begun the process necessary to become accredited at both national and international levels. At the local level, UB is working through procedures as laid out by the National Accreditation & Equivalency Council of The Bahamas (NAECOB).
At the international level, UB has initiated an application for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Dr Smith asserted that SACS’ accreditation is one of the “most stringent” accrediting bodies in the United States, and perhaps the world, due to the number of global institutions seeking its accreditation - a group that includes the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Expounding on the progress of the application process with SACS, Dr Danny Davis, UB director of strategic planning, strengthening and accreditation, indicated that the university has already completed the candidacy portion of the application process.
According to Dr Davis, the candidacy portion of the process acted as an initial security checkpoint, giving way to an even more stringent check system that takes into consideration “every small detail” of an institution’s make-up.
This element, according to both Dr Smith and Dr Davis, stands to reason as to why it was critical for UB to take on all four initiatives simultaneously.
Officials maintained that the acquisition of this accreditation will ensure that the university raises and maintains standards of quality and accountability across all levels of the institution.
As it relates to school’s strategic plan, Dr Smith added: “As we grow our graduate programmes, we will also attract graduate students to the Bahamas for advanced degrees. For instance, we intend to create what I call hybrid graduate studies.
“For example, we are a small island developing state, an archipelagic country, with resources not found anywhere else in the world.
“We have the opportunity to offer graduate studies in small island sustainable development, allowing graduate students the opportunity to spend a semester at the Gerace Research Institute in San Salvador, a semester at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, a semester at BAMSI and finally a semester at the GTR Campbell Small Island Sustainability Research Complex at the main campus here in Nassau, completing either a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation.
“This kind of symbiosis, allows a most beneficial relationship between graduate studies, scientific research, and access to international grant sources.”
Additionally, UB has already rolled out plans for a complete overhaul of its data managements concepts.
UB VP and Chief Information Officer Elgin Smith said the implementation of a $3m data system, referred to as the banner system, will redefine how the school handles everything from cloud storage for students to financial services offered to paying parents.
Officials said the system is designed to “enable the most critical needs and processes in an institution” such as UB.
The group added: “It will definitely take the university to the highest level in terms of how we serve our students, how we attract talent and how we manage our finances and all other administrative issues. It will also move us towards paperless transactions.”
With phase one of the new system already being studied by staff at UB, the complete service is expected be rolled out in parts over the next two years.
Lastly, as it relates to capital works projects, UB officials confirmed that they are progressing on plans for a 1,000-bed residence hall complex at the Oakes Field campus.
According to Dr Smith: “This new building will do much more than provide necessary housing for our growing main campus. It will help to make this campus more internationally appealing as we provide degree programmes that will be of interest to international students.”
He added: “For too long we have essentially been a commuter campus. Having students live on campus will be a real investment in developing the type of thriving campus life that distinguishes other universities. More importantly, creating a residential campus will increase retention and progress toward graduation.”
The University of The Bahamas was chartered on November 10, 2016.