From College to University of The Bahamas: A Noble Legacy
University of The Bahamas was chartered on 10 November 2016 by an Act of Parliament of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. UB had its genesis in the College of The Bahamas which came into effect in 1974 through the amalgamation of four institutions: The Bahamas Teachers’ College, San Salvador Teachers’ College, C.R. Walker Technical College and the sixth form programme of the Government High School.
In February 1977, when the Rt. Hon. Lynden O. Pindling, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, officially opened the College, he foreshadowed that the institution would eventually become the University of The Bahamas: “And after all of this, what will we have? Ten years from now we will have developed the University of The Bahamas….and the College of The Bahamas will have given way to the University of The Bahamas.” With these words, the creation of the University was inevitable.
The institution’s initial academic offerings were limited to associate degrees, certificates and diplomas. Compelled by the mandate to help to develop the human capital necessary to build a more prosperous and competitive Bahamas, the College accelerated its undergraduate programme development and, in the early 1990s, introduced baccalaureate degree programmes in a variety of disciplines including Business, Education, Science and Nursing. At the time of its transition to University of The Bahamas, the College was offering some five bachelor degrees in approximately fifty-five majors.
In June 1995, landmark legislation granted the College full autonomy of its aﬀairs and expanded its mandate. With the passage of this Act, the institution became a corporate entity under the governance of an 11-member Council. The extended mandate and responsibilities necessitated a new organisational structure and gave greater autonomy in the management of operations and finances. It also empowered the institution to seek and receive private funding and changed its financial system from public to private accounting.
During academic year 1997-98, the College brought together a strategic planning task force comprising representatives of all major stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, alumni, leaders from public and private sector organisations and members of the general public – to develop a strategic plan. The plan’s commitments, goals and strategies were intended to initiate formally the momentous journey to university status and to achieve and enhance excellence in the conduct of its core academic mission and other commitments. Revised in 2003, the actions emerging from the plan were to shape the University of The Bahamas.
Recognising the need to develop an infrastructure which would support university status, new offices and departments were established and, in 1998, academic departments were restructured into three faculties covering nine schools with each faculty headed by a Dean. The nomenclature for faculty was changed from lecturer and senior lecturer to assistant professor, associate professor and professor. Generous paid study leave opportunities were introduced so that Bahamian faculty and staff could upgrade their credentials. Also in 1998, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, presented in Parliament a three-year development plan for the College which included the Government’s commitment to facilitate the transition of the College into a University.
In August 2000, The Bahamas Hotel Training College was amalgamated with the institution, producing the School of Hospitality and Tourism Studies, later known as the Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute. In the same year, a Bachelor of Laws in conjunction with the University of the West Indies was offered; a Bachelor of Pharmacy in conjunction with the University of Technology, Jamaica, was later added to programme offerings.
Cognizant of the need to further expand its offerings and make graduate programmes available, in 2001 the first graduate programme, Master of Education in School Counselling with Kent State University, was offered. Graduate programmes continued to be offered with other international partners such as the Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology with the Iowa-based Ashford University and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science by the University of South Florida. Kent State University’s Master of Education degrees in Special Education and Educational Administration, and Massachusetts-based Wheelock College’s Master of Science degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Teaching have also been facilitated. The College’s first independent graduate degree, a Master of Business Administration, was offered fall 2010; a Master of Science in Reading with a concentration in Inclusive Education was later added.
Expansion in Infrastructure
Over the years, the institution has developed and improved its physical infrastructure. In 2008 the Wellness Centre was opened on the Oakes Field Campus at a total cost of $925,000. The Michael H. Eldon Complex on Thompson Boulevard became the first corporate asset. To ensure the continued development of its graduate programmes, former Council Chairman Franklyn Wilson and his wife Sharon donated $1 million towards the creation of the F.R. Wilson Graduate Business Centre. Additional funding for this Centre was provided by the Bahamas Government and a $1 million donation by the Royal Bank of Canada. Generous donations from Harry C. Moore, the Lyford Cay Foundation and the Government of The Bahamas funded the $28 million Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre, which was opened on 8 April 2011.
The new Northern Bahamas Campus in East Grand Bahama, located on 50-acres generously gifted by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, was officially opened on 12 May 2011. At the Oakes Field Campus, the former auditorium was reconstructed into a 400-seat air-conditioned facility at an investment of some $3.3 million; a specialized pharmacy laboratory, including an organic chemistry lab, was renovated at an estimated $1.6 million; and the G.T.R. Campbell Small Island Sustainability Complex, thanks to a generous donation of $10 million from the Freedom Foundation, is under construction. The University’s Oakes Field profile has also been greatly enhanced by the construction a new formal entrance, complete with electronic message boards.
Growing Research Capacity
In 1992, the Research Unit was established to facilitate the systematic development of a research capacity. In 1995, the institution, along with the Ministry of Education and the Virginia based George Mason University, established the Bahamas Environmental Research Centre (BERC) in Central Andros to conduct research on coastal ecology, estuarine ecology and creek restoration and creek monitoring for grouper and lobster larvae. Further, in 1996 the College assumed responsibility for the Gerace Research Centre, formerly the Bahamian Field Station, in San Salvador. The Centre offers facilities for students, professors and researchers from around the world to study in a tropical environment. Research disciplines have included Archaeology, Biology, Geology and Marine Science.
Determined to build a reputation for research comparable to the outstanding teaching reputation for which it was fast becoming known, the institution’s research work has comprised collaborations with international and regional agencies such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). In the national context, research partners have included government ministries and public and private agencies.
In August 2006, the College Council established an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Governance to propose the legislative framework for the University of The Bahamas. Chaired by President Emerita Dr. Keva Bethel, the institution’s first Bahamian President, the Committee submitted its final report on 10 June 2007.
In 2012, under the leadership of Chairman Alfred Sears, the University Transition Secretariat was established with the mandate to “convene forums, engender conversations and discussions, organize activities, and otherwise bring together and engage internal and external stakeholders of The College of The Bahamas for the purpose of envisioning the character of the University of The Bahamas and designing the roadmap for effecting the transition of The College of The Bahamas to The University.” The Secretariat, led by Dr. Olivia Saunders, submitted the Final Draft Report of the University Transition Secretariat in fall 2013.
The College Council, senior administration, faculty, staff, students and alumni continued to transition the College of The Bahamas to the University of The Bahamas. A technical team appointed to work along with the Law Reform Commission of the Office of the Attorney General drafted the University of The Bahamas Bill which was passed by the House of Assembly and the Senate in the summer of 2016. The University Act includes all governance core-requirements for international accreditation. Also, shared governance and academic freedom, the basic tenets of higher education institutions, are assured within the new governance structure. With the establishment of an Academic Senate, the faculty assumes greater responsibility for the academic affairs of the University.
On 25 August 2016, Hon. Jerome K. Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, announced that the College of The Bahamas would transition into the University of The Bahamas on 10 November 2016 – the university’s Charter Day – in fulfilment of a vision for higher education and the national development of The Bahamas expressed more than four decades ago.
The mission of the University is to advance and expand access to higher education, promote academic freedom, drive national development and build character through teaching, learning, research, scholarship and service.
UB’s legacy reflects a distinct commitment to responding to national needs. Students and faculty have remained the cornerstone of a vibrant teaching institution and are expanding research initiatives that focus on sustainable national development. Academic programmes, collaborations and public-private partnerships will continue to build capacity for the robust development of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.