In 2015/2016, the University of the West Indies enrolled 5070 part-time students studying for 1st degrees, and 6587 working towards higher degrees – across all its campuses. Five decades ago, that movement was new and it started with hundreds not thousands of working students across the Caribbean!
The trend to incorporating part-time students within the UWI dates back just over a half-century, to 1963 when the first set of working students matriculated. Irene Walter and Doreen Abrahams were among those first part-timers aka evening students who trekked to the UWI Mona campus in the evening, after a day’s work. They were proudly among the Class of 1967 graduates who in October 2017 celebrated a half century since graduation. Most of their cohort would have entered UWI in 1964; though the medical students would have had an even longer tenure than the part-timers.
University Archives colleague Vanessa Lyons dug for the Council Minutes of February 16, 1961, which recorded the decision:
‘UCWI Students Working Their Way Through College-C.P.5
The Council accepted the report of the Senate as follows:-
(a) That Evening students could work their way through college and that Full- time Day Students could earn part of their College expenses during vacation time.
(b) That there were no rules to prevent regular Day Students working at night, although very little night work was available in Kingston; and
(c) That Day Students should be full-time students, and part-time students should take Evening Courses.
The result of that decision was seen in October 1963 when, as the Jamaica Gleaner reported, the number of students registered in all courses jumped from 871 in October 1960 to about 2,000. In a report on the Editorial Page titled Expanding Work of U.W.I., the Gleaner stated: “One-hundred-and-seven freshmen were admitted as students of the University at the opening of the College of Arts and Science in Barbados last Saturday evening. This College is an integral part of the University and its students will work for the same general degree as the students at St. Augustine and at Mona. During that same week, 7000 persons attended the opening of the College of Arts and Science in Trinidad at the University campus at St. Augustine and on this occasion some 350 freshmen were admitted.
“At Mona 502 students were admitted at the matriculation ceremony held on Monday evening of this week. This included 140 evening students for general degrees in Arts and in Science.” (October 17, 1963)