Bahamas Minister of Education sees COB’s Northern Bahamas Campus as key step to university status

FREEPORT – The groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, August 4, for the Northern Bahamas Campus, just outside the city here, was hailed by Attorney General and Minister of Education Hon. Alfred M. Sears as another important stage in the growth of the College of The Bahamas in its progress to university status.

The “multi-million dollar state-of-the-art” Northern Bahamas Campus was seen as a key step in a series of moves to enhance the physical structures of the College of The Bahamas as it advances towards becoming the University of The Bahamas. It was, he said, the result of a strategic public-private partnership between the College of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

“We are grateful,” Minister Sears declared, “for the partnership of The Grand Bahama Port Authority. The Port, under the chairmanship of the late Edward St. George, donated 220 acres of land for the construction of the campus.”

On hand for the ceremony was the Chairman of the College of The Bahamas Council, Mr. Franklyn Wilson, Lady Henrietta St. George, and the Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Mr. Julian Francis.

Continuing his tribute to the late Mr. St. George, Mr. Sears added, “Throughout his life in The Bahamas, St. George’s generosity was personal and constant. He believed there was no better investment than in the education of the youth of a country. And he expressed this belief by consistently committing the resources of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and his personal wealth, to education in public and private schools.

“The donations of the Port went beyond the scope of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. Under Edward, the Port became an instrument for the empowerment of the young people of Grand Bahama.

“We are grateful to Mr. St. George and thank Lady Henrietta for their tremendous contribution to the development of the people of The Bahamas.”

On COB’s transition to university status, the Minister encouraged the College of the Bahamas Council, administration, faculty and staff to honor the generosity of St. George and the Port and position the Northern Campus to take the lead in shaping the future of Grand Bahama and the northern Bahamas.

The College of The Bahamas, wherever it is in The Bahamas, he stated, must become – in the words of Professor Rex Nettleford (of the University of The West Indies) — “an agency for intellectual discovery” in that community.

Mr. Sears added that along with physical expansion, COB must continue to expand and diversify program offerings beyond general degrees in art and science.

“I am pleased at the progress made to date in this area,” the Minister said, “as the signature offerings at the Northern Bahamas Campus will focus on engineering, communications and technology.

“You would know that the focus on these critical areas is strategic given the industries concentrated in the Grand Bahama area and the needs of a 21st century Bahamas and beyond. I hope that program offerings will be evaluated on an ongoing basis with the assistance of curriculum councils to ensure that they meet the needs of the nation and of the student.”

Mr. Sears called for the continued broadening of access to higher education throughout The Bahamas. That, he said, will mean accelerating distance learning and lifelong learning development and improving the intake into COB from high schools and post-secondary institutions by giving more high school graduates access to the institution.

And he stressed, “As we seek to increase student enrolment, we must seek also to increase the number of male students, vigorously exploring ways and means by which the College can obtain greater gender balance.”

The Minister also called for a commitment to research at COB, with courage to define the bounds of academic freedom and confidence to promote programs and projects that attract international funding.

And, he continued, the COB must demand of its leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni levels of commitment and performance that are consistent with 21st century leadership.

Mr. Sears ended: “The role of The College and University of The Bahamas in the advancement of our country is great. I am therefore pleased that one of our family islands, Grand Bahama, will be etched in history as playing a significant role in that development.”

COB already has a vibrant industrial complex in Freeport and provides a natural matrix for a full campus of the University of The Bahamas, catering to scholars from through the country and the Americas.

The campus will be purpose-built for the rapidly growing Northern Bahamas and will be the centre of the College’s industrial and technological programs and it is expected to have great economic and social impact on Grand Bahama.

Designed by noted Bahamian architects, Jackson Burnside Ltd., the campus will mix academic, social and economic activities to underpin a multi-purpose character, comprising education, commerce, entertainment, recreation, culture and residence.

The first phase will house classrooms, and administration area, a library and the necessary amenities, including access roads and parking. As the campus expands, residential facilities will be added, making the recruitment of international students an enriching and rewarding possibility.

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