By Larry Smith
Recently, I caught the tail-end of a polite rant on JCN-TV by College of the Bahamas professor Nicolette Bethel. She was lamenting the fact that the College's move towards university status has stalled, threatening dire consequences for the future of the country.
My first reaction was: Well, aren't we already part of the University of the West Indies?
We are indeed - have been since 1964, in fact. And we contribute about $3 million a year to this prestigious regional institution, which operates a School of Clinical Medicine & Research, a Hotel Management Programme and an Open University 'campus' in Nassau.
My second reaction was: Why does the College need to become a university anyway?
"The concept of a university is a place where ideas are encouraged, where economies are expanded, where industries are created, where jobs are multiplied," Bethel explained to me. "If the country does not show confidence in itself, in its young, in its own ability to innovate, the moment will pass. Our lack of understanding of this is a recipe for future disaster."
And apparently it's all part of the plan - the 2009-2019 strategic plan, which says the College "expects to become a university…to develop new undergraduate and graduate programmes, increase research and innovation activities and focus its work in areas crucial to national development."
In his introduction to that plan, Council Chairman T. Baswell Donaldson says a university will "support and drive national development (and) the College is ready to take that step." He told me the same thing over the phone recently: "We are ready at any time to become a university, but I have no idea what the government's timetable is."
A rather startling admission. But before we get into a discussion of that, a little background is in order.