February 6th, 2009
The agreement was signed at the OECS Secretariat in Castries by OECS Director General Dr. Len Ishmael and Dr. Celeste Freytes Gonzalez, Vice-president for Academic Affairs at the University of Puerto Rico. It was witnessed by Minister in the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia Senator Gaspard Charlemange, a representative of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and staff of the OECS Secretariat.
The agreement falls within a 2004 Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Puerto Rico and OECS Member States under which the two sides agreed to pursue joint initiatives in functional cooperation in the fields of education, agriculture, trade and investment, environmental management, air and sea ports, justice, security and policy.
The agreement with the UPR provides enrollment in courses leading to Associate, Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees on all UPR campuses. Students may either be bilingual - which will allow them to enroll directly for their course of study - or they can apply to the special bilingual programme in the first academic year of their studies at the Rio Piedray, Cayey or Humacao campuses of the University.
In addressing the signing ceremony, the OECS Director General said the Secretariat will be working with Member States to move the process quickly forward to ensure that the first batch of OECS students enter the University in August this year.
Dr Ishmael said the collaboration demonstrates the fact that even small countries have valuable resources which they can share with those which are even smaller. She said the partnership also spoke to the integration of our space in the Caribbean. She noted that students who go to Puerto Rico will help to build bridges and will be future ambassadors for Puerto Rico.
Dr. Ishmael said the agreement with the UPR was just the latest in a series of joint initiatives between the OECS and Puerto Rico since the signing of the 2004 Memorandum. These included the opening of an OECS Office in Puerto Rico to promote OECS tourism, trade and investment opportunities, the appointment of an Honorary Consul, official visits by OECS Prime Ministers to Puerto Rico, the attendance by a former Puerto Rican Secretary of State at an OECS Authority meeting, and the hosting of an OECS Ministers of Tourism meeting in the municipality of Caguas.
The UPR Vice-President expressed the University administration’s excitement with the opportunity created by the agreement to enroll students from the OECS Member States whom she expects to add to the tradition of high achievers at the UPR. She said the UPR will provide the region with great, affordable options just a short distance away. The eleven UPR campuses have a 65,000 member student body, and offers 450 programmes.
Dr. Gonzalez said the University tries to find the highest latitude and moves students in that direction in its search for excellence.
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