The Surviving UWC

Anonymous (UWCiM 2011)

When I returned this year to Mostar I did not find just my old friends, our amazing firstyears, but also empty rooms. I found rooms where my secondyears used to live filling up with strange people who have nothing to do with UWC. Velic is the building where languages, history and psychology were taught last year. This year, I had my World lit class in the Biology lab.

The story of UWCiM is quite complicated. The school was planned to be a three year project of UWC AD and it was the first college built in a post-conflict society. After three years, when everyone saw that the school can really help and change something, it became a real UWC. Unfortunately, our enrollment dropped last year due to economic recession shrinking the class of 2011 to 53 people. The class of 2012 was expected to have normal numbers but in the end it was even smaller than the class of 2011. And we can be happy about this number. When I was talking to my co-years from other colleges in May they were surprised that we still exist. The worst was when we were told that we won’t have any firsties. Now we are happy for every single one of them. Another change was the lack of scholarships which meant that most of the students have to pay, through the national committee (or not).

At this point I am starting to question the whole UWC network. New schools are being opened like the one in Maastricht. A new school is being built in Spain. In the meanwhile somewhere behind is Mostar is desperately crying for help. Maybe this would not be right to ask but why are schools being built in countries like the Netherlands? Yes, I know that the Dutch network invested a lot of money into other UWCs, like Mostar. But wouldn´t it be better to establish strong UWCs and later on build new ones? And perhaps focus on countries which are struggling?

There is almost no contact between UWCs. No official network connecting our schools. Last year there was an exchange between UWCiM and UWCAD. Last year, the headmaster of AD rejected our students coming to UWCAD after project week with UWCADers here in Mostar. We provided them with accommodation and help. We could not offer a lot but we gave what we had. We do not blame the students; we do not blame the school, but is this really the UWC? What is the UWC? Just another trendy brand?

With this article I am not trying to insult any other UWC and I am sorry if I offended anyone, I am just calling for help. Our secondyears and our staff were told that our class won’t exist and after few terrible weeks of struggling they got us. The staff together with the third-years and the whole administration fought for us. Thanks to them I am in a UWC. The same happened the year before. In the end we got our firsties. But I do not want it to happen again. Who wants to be at the surviving school?

Some people even think that UWCiM does not exist anymore. But we will survive. And if not I am scared that we would take the whole UWC with us.

-United World Colleges Student Magazine-

15 thoughts on “The Surviving UWC

  1. I can understand your concerns regarding opening new colleges, while others struggle to survive. However, it should not be forgotten that it is the official UWC policy not to support the opening of any new college that is not fully funded. That means the opening of the Dutch UWC in Maastricht did not negatively impact on the UWC in Mostar – that does of course not improve your situation, but I think it important to point out that while the Mostar situation is less than satisfactory – one cannot hold Maastricht responsible for that.

  2. it was a good point you made that there is no contact nor official network connecting the UWCs. how are the separate UWCs supposed to get support from each other if there isn’t strong communication between them? and aren’t UWCs about uniting different nations and people? the UWCs have a short history are still developing so it’s understandable that such a network is yet to be built, but i’m hoping the board and the national commitees of UWCs are planning to build something like that. Thank you for your revealing article =]

  3. As far as I know the heads of the UWCs meet at least annually – so there is at least some sort of exchange on the highest level, but that could certainly be approved.

  4. I totally agree on the lack of communication issue, I think the different colleges should relate to each other much more than what they do now and in all levels (authorities, teachers and students).

  5. feel terribly sorry for you guys at UWCiM. And yes, i agree that the connection between the UWCs should definitely be improved in many levels and activities.
    stay strong, my friends. if you can survive this (and also your UWC), you’ll survive anything in this life!🙂

  6. We actually had a reasonably lively discussion about opening new UWCs (especially in Europe where there is rather a lot of them already) during a 10th reunion this summer (I’m ancient🙂 ).

    Nearly all alumni and most teachers who were floating around at the time seemed to agree that opening the new schools is a little counterproductive – especially as, while they are fully funded to start up, they will need funds for later operation, funds that will be drawn from more or less the same donor-pool as the money supporting the current colleges.
    (BTW – AD is also struggling at the moment, there was a real fear of imminent bankruptcy earlier this year.)

    There is also a question of connecting these schools to the network, and having people there who actually have an idea what UWC is supposed to achieve, and a feeling for how a place like this functions.
    Even in existing schools there are occasional problems and variable atmosphere because of a break in personal ( & personnel) continuity – starting up half a dozen schools, without them having close collaborations with other existing ones is just asking for trouble.

    The current explosive expansion, especially in the current economic climate, especially in a region where colleges are almost touching each other, is questionable at the very least.

    There is cooperation between UWCs at the head level – and back in the good ol’ days when I was there, we had common student-initiated projects. I was in AD, and I remember being on the phone half the time in my first year with people in LPC, Armand Hammer, Pearson, Nordic, Simón Bolívar, about organizing different things. (e.g. Walkathon fund-raising for UNICEF, coordinated to happen in an exact time-shift in every single college to become a “walk around the world” – produced some nice publicity, raised a bit of money … possibly more importantly, opened continuous communication between batches of students in different colleges; bunch of other similar initiatives.)

    There are ways to start these things up again.

    One thing I am reasonably sure about though, after listening to a lot of questions raised by alumni from very different graduation years:

    The International Office needs to be more transparent about what they are doing, where money is coming from for what, what the aims are (if any) in opening certain new colleges, what criteria these new institutions need to fulfill, and overall where the movement is going.

  7. My dear firsties!
    I am so proud of you! You have the necessary drive to save our school, and to continue what we and people before us started! I think we proved to everybody that we would not give up without fighting. May be it is not the best equipped college ever, but there are people, who love it, and we wiill not let it be closed down!
    Long live UWCiM!!!

  8. Thinking of you all very much, the connections between UWCs, be it between students, teachers or administators whould definitely be improved. We so have the capacity wthin ourselves, why has it not be done already? Stay strong guys, you are far more important than you realise.

  9. Sorry for not answering earlier… Firstly I did not mean to offend anyone and I know that every UWC has its own funding.

    Official reason – A1 orals Italian – we would disturb students too much – during their stay here we had A1 orals as well and we survived;)

    And not just AD, AC offers quite a lot of places to people who can apply directly to the school, other schools do it as well to sustain and what I heard from our headmaster Pearson is in huge debts…

    My concern was the communication between our UWCs on student level, maybe some exchange programmes – we had one with AD last year! Something happened, but it should happen more often.

    Thanks for MT comment – I definitely agree that Europe is just too overloaded and that financing and use of common fund for advertising and promotion is everything but not transparent. Why do we for example invest so much money into new logo? All UWCs now have one common logo and what I heard was that UWC spent a lot of money on it. Wouldnt be one scholarship better?

    Thanks for support;)

  10. got a question to ask to every reader:what is UWC in Venezuela like? do you know someone as a student there? do you have a rare idea of what its situation at this moment looks like? have you ever seen articles from this UWC being written and published?

    the answer to all these and more questions, is a big “NO”.

    although there are people who have answers to some of the above mentioned questions, i doubt if a Venezuelan has an idea.

    we, UWC family have taken birth under a common name and mission but have been living like strangers since the beginning and might live, if UWC’s start mushrooming.

    though UWC is an opportunity and a change towards betterment, the fate of some of our UWC including SBUWC seems dim. And i doubt new UWC’s are being established in order to replace the existing dark financed. What if the present UWC’s could be assured of the UWC model, movement, mission and it future before taking a step to another UWC, which in some years time might run out take the similar road to it financing?

    isn’t it true we lack interchange amongst us. we are UWC’ers but have a rare idea of what life looks like on a college with a similar name.

    UWC is a movement, we are and will be its big part. we know we are the change that we want but can’t we work for a interchange amongst us. lets do something to make it happen, instead of waiting for someone to make it happen.

    N.B. the answers to the above mentioned questions will be published in future article.

    SBUWC 2nd year student

  11. Hey, good on you for highlighting two important issues:
    1. Existing colleges’ struggles for funding; and
    2. Whether new colleges should be opening when the existing colleges are struggling.

    The only comment I’d make (and I should declare interests here – I have been involved with the group working towards opening a UWC in New Zealand) is that new colleges do not necessarily drink from the same funding pool as existing colleges. There are many funders who will fund a college in one country, because they have a particular interest in it, but not in a country where they don’t.

    Cheers,
    Lucy Telfar Barnard (PC 88-90)

  12. I am sorry for the late response. I did not even expect so many people to read this article and I would like to thank all the readers;)

    I am aware of the fact that for example some local firm would rather invest to the local school to promote itself than to the school on the other side of the planet. But in the case of opening new UWCs and problems with funding I namely wanted to question the situation in Europe where 5/13 schools are located and new one is going to be opened.

    We use to say – Sharing is caring! Sharing all the bad and good things, hardship and success. We all share the same name UWC, will UWC survive if we let one school to fall?

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