A group of twenty-six students from The University of the West Indies (The UWI) recently completed the China component of a 2+2 Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering with a concentration in mobile application technologies. The group which spent the past two years studying at the Global Institute of Software Technology (GIST) in Suzhou, China is the inaugural class of The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology (UWI-CIIT).
Four years ago, The UWI established the UWI-CIIT, with a mission to produce a generation of software engineers for the Caribbean, to support the region’s much needed digital revolution. The Caribbean students spent their first two years of study at The UWI’s Cave Hill or Mona campuses, then continued their final two years at GIST. They began their journey in China in 2018 and benefitted from state-of-the-art software engineering training and research and development, studied mandarin, immersed in Chinese culture and pursued industry-related internships in with international clients in Suzhou, Italy and more.
Despite graduation ceremonies being cancelled this year at GIST, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute’s leadership hosted a modest event last month to mark the significance of the milestone for this first cohort. A dozen of the UWI-CIIT students of this first cohort who are currently still in China were in attendance, along with lecturers, administrative staff, the leadership of GIST and The UWI’s Assistant Registrar based in China.
In a video message to the graduates, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who championed the establishment of this unique programme, expressed his pride in the occasion. “This is a wonderful moment of historical celebration.” He said to the students, “You have been ambassadors and leaders of this programme and you have done very well. In the Caribbean at The University of the West Indies, and I am sure at GIST, we are very proud of what you have done.”
Vice-Chancellor Beckles continued, “This discipline of software engineering is going to be transformative of the Caribbean, and this is why we have promoted this programme.” He recalled the inception of the GIST partnership dating back to 2013 when President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping visited the Caribbean. He noted that President Xi made his commitment to participate in the development of the Caribbean by investing to promote the economic transformation. The UWI then sought to identify a partner in software engineering that would help the young people of the Caribbean to enter into a new technology era.
In his address to the graduates at the ceremony, President of GIST, Professor Zhu Xiu Lin extended his congratulations. “I sincerely hope that you will be able to realise your personal value in your future career and make your contribution to the economic and social development of the Caribbean region,” he stated. He especially commended the group present who stayed in China throughout the pandemic adding, “You were strict in self-discipline, obeyed the rules of the school, helped each other and worked together with us through this difficult period. I fully recognise your performance and express my heartfelt thanks for your understanding and cooperation.”
The UWI Assistant Registrar who oversees the BSc in Software Engineering programme in China, Justin Seale extended his own congratulations to the group on successfully completing their studies at GIST. He acknowledged, “I am sure your journey has been tough at times, yet you have prevailed…especially in the face of the global pandemic.”
Vice-Chancellor Beckles also thanked GIST’s President for the way in which he managed and took care of the students during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added, “The people of the Caribbean stand in solidarity with the people of China in their attempt to manage and eradicate this pandemic. We have confidence that you will triumph and that you will provide the world with leadership and guidance.”
Speaking via video message, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI, Mona, Professor Dale Webber told the graduates, “You are tooled to be that next generation making a difference all over the world but especially here in the Caribbean. You are trendsetters, innovators and now software engineers.” To the GIST team, he asserted, “The partnership has served us both well and will continue to serve us well going forward.”
Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Cave Hill Campus, Professor the Most Honourable V. Eudine Barriteau also congratulated the graduates by video message. “I am proud of you for staying the course,” she said. “Soon you will begin a new phase to establish careers in the field of software engineering. You will be doing so in a world that is vastly different than the one you knew when you started your studies. That is why the key message I want to offer you today is that there is no time like the present. If there was ever a time to seize an opportunity, to take full advantage of whatever the present holds, that time is now. Leverage your expertise and opportunities to propel the Caribbean to the forefront of the global digital transformation.”
The UWI-CIIT is a clear alignment with the leadership vision of Vice-Chancellor Beckles, who is keen on driving the globalisation of The UWI brand through expansion and alertness to global opportunities. It is one of several international partnered entities which the University has established across North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe over the past four years.
The students will now transition to complete their capstone defense and IT certification to earn their Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering with a concentration in mobile application technologies.