KINGSTON, Jamaica – The University of the West Indies (UWI) on Thursday announced that it has evolved as a “multi-lingual” institution, with a new policy that will require all new undergraduate students to take up a foreign language and become “conversation competent”.
The requirement comes under The UWI’s Foreign Language Policy for its five regional campuses which was approved and is being implemented after in-depth internal strategic planning and discussion with regional education stakeholders, the university said.
“Going forward, the expectation is that all UWI graduates will be at least conversation competent in a language other than English,” said Pro Vice-Chancellor for Undergraduate Studies, Professor Justin Robinson.
The UWI currently has teaching and learning departments on its campuses that produce substantial numbers of graduates with specialized foreign language degrees. Majors and minors in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and teaching competencies in others like Arabic, German, Hindi, Korean, and Yoruba have long been commonplace.
However, the introduction of the Foreign Language Policy will now see all students participating in foreign language training at a general level.
“Those coming into the university with prior competence shall be exempt from this requirement,” The UWI said.
The policy is being implemented on a phased, faculty-by-faculty and campus-by-campus basis, beginning in the academic year 2022/2023 with applicability to new incoming undergraduate students only.
The top-ranked global university said this seminal policy development advances its compliance with best practices in teaching and learning found in elite-ranked cohorts.
“Significant change will enable the further regional and global mobility and empowerment of graduates. Foreign language proficiency will no longer be a major impediment to employment amongst our graduates in the global world,” noted Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.
“This is a fundamental change that will transform the identity of UWI students and graduates and will provide more relevant graduates to serve as a development platform for the new, more modern, and globally competitive Caribbean economy.”
Universal coverage and participation of all students are anticipated within the next three academic years, the university said.
“Flexible access and easy learning is the pedagogical principle, with students having the option of self-tutoring or guided instruction. They will have the full duration of their academic program to acquire language competence,” it added.