Head's Blog

60 Years

Last week I had the privilege of attending UWC Atlantic’s 60th Anniversary Celebration. Some of you may know that UWC is a name that replaced the original “Atlantic Colleges” that Lord Mountbatten had envisioned, a group of similar schools but the name did not quite work when the next two schools opened in Singapore and Canada.

UWC Atlantic’s campus is well known for its history and beauty. There are a few myths that need busting, though, such as it being a school only for students from all over the world on scholarships from day one. The reality, however, is quite different: it opened with less than 60 boys (mainly European), that allowing girls was controversial for some, and that it has always had a significant number of fee-paying students.

In the world of education we can divide scholarships in two types: merit and access. The former is used to incentivize students who would bring a particular strength to join an educational institution (be it academic, sports, artistic and so on) irrespective of their financial situation. The latter also targets high-potential students, but does so with a focus on equalising opportunities irrespective of socioeconomic background. In the case of UWC with our focus on intentional diversity, this means also irrespective of race, religious beliegs, gender, sexual orientation and so on.

The UWC admissions model for the two-year colleges aims to be needs-blind so that deserving students are not prevented from having an opportunity to join. Once the selection processes have taken place, then there is a financial assessment to ensure that the funds raised are used to support those who really need them. We do have plenty of deserving students in that category, and it is our duty to ensure that all the funds available, in great part coming from our fundraising work, are dedicated to them.

Sometimes an artificial divide is created when fee-paying students are considered as “second class” UWCers. It seems to me that there is a fundamental misconception there, as it would be immoral for someone who has been selected with the same criteria and whose family can afford to pay the school fees to benefit from funds that were intended to give an opportunity to someone without the means. When this happens, someone who could have received that opportunity misses out.

Back to the celebration. That event marks the beginning of a year of many celebrations across the UWC movement, for which we have a shared logo:

You will notice that peace features prominently there. As a movement we have done a lot of work on sustainability (including launching the first Climate Action Leadership Diploma) but peace is the other focal point of our mission, and our planet clearly needs it desperately.

Watch UWC 60th Anniversary Celebration and see if you recognise anything or anybody in the videos.