The democratization of higher education in Jamaica: The role of the University of the West Indies

Geraldine Grace Walker, Florida International University


The University of the West Indies (UWI), established in the British colony of Jamaica in 1948, was mandated to serve the “brightest and the best” of the British colonies. Unfortunately, the austerity of Jamaica's economy has not helped to augment an “open door” access to higher education, and UWI is often criticized for not implementing policies to sustain the democratization of higher education; it is accused of functioning as an elitist institution. ^ The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine whether UWI functions democratically as an institution to influence the equity of higher education in Jamaica. A review of the literature reveals many interpretations of the democratization of higher education. Three of Spaulding and Kargodorian's four criteria were utilized to analyze this research. They were (1) equality of access to higher education, (2) equality of participation within the institution of higher education, and (3) equality of educational results. Multiple sources of written data augmented by interviews in Jamaica and Miami were utilized. ^ The analysis revealed that UWI functions in a collaborative relationship with Jamaica's Centralized Educational System as well as with the country's political, economic, and social realms to impact the democratization of higher education. Documentation suggests that, although strong traditional influences continue to exist, UWI has deviated from its original mandate and instead, flexible admittance policies and diversification of expanded programs have contributed to greater accessibility. ^ Despite UWI's reports of improvements which have contributed to more access, UNESCO and some interviewees have not been impressed. A World Bank report on enrollment ratio at the university level in English speaking Caribbean countries reflects less than one percent of the age cohort. The Jamaicans interviewed, especially those from the lower class, felt that their democratic right to receive higher education was not met. UNESCO regards UWI's efforts as just putting a “dent” in the problem. ^ Recommendations include continuing efforts towards developing curricula more relevant to the Jamaican society, increasing distance education in order to ease UWI's load, expanding financial partnerships with private sectors, and extending research in collaboration with large local and foreign private companies. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sociology of|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Walker, Geraldine Grace, "The democratization of higher education in Jamaica: The role of the University of the West Indies" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9991055.