Annually, the business meeting of The University of the West Indies’ highest governing body, the University Council, provides an opportunity for reflection and planning forward. This opportunity was amplified at the meeting of the University Council on Wednesday April 26, as The UWI celebrates its 75th Diamond jubilee anniversary (1948-2023).
Delivering the feature presentation, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles presented what he termed a report ‘hybrid’ in nature. “This report is at once Vice-Chancellor’s annual report to Council for the year in review 2021-2022, but inescapably, it is a reflection upon the university at 75” he said. In his report themed The UWI Brand Activist and Excellent – Fighting the Virus, Focusing the Vision, Vice-Chancellor Beckles reflected on the ongoing success of The UWI’s ten-year Strategic Plan. The first phase, 2017-2022 – focused on a Reputation Revolution; building the reputation through activity, research and engagement in the global community. “I am happy to report that at 75 our reputation as a global academy of quality has never been higher, and our visibility as a university in the Caribbean has never been greater.”
The UWI is currently in phase two of its strategic plan (2022-2027) focusing on a revenue revolution that will see the institution become financially sustainable. Sharing the vision, Vice-Chancellor Beckles said “we believe that it is possible, in the next five years, to turn around the financial funding model of this university so that our reliance upon the public revenue will be significantly diminished. This while the university itself, through its own entrepreneurial activity will generate far more resources than it has ever done in the past.”
The Vice-Chancellor’s report to Council also detailed The UWI’s operations for the academic year 2021-2022. Highlights included the university’s outstanding internal and regional response to COVID-19; success in extending access for students within the OECS through the Five Islands campus in Antigua and Barbuda; The UWI’s impact through its global research agenda; entrepreneurial engagement at the campus level; and investments in digital transformation.
Mr. Robert Bermudez, UWI Chancellor and Council Chairman reflected on the university’s founding vision and the reality that at 75, The UWI has succeeded in becoming the intended “beacon of hope, progress, and opportunity” for the region and the world. Looking to the future he said “we recognize that new approaches and solutions would be required to address emerging challenges and opportunities. As we focus ahead, we remain committed to advancing the cause of knowledge, discovery, and innovation.”
Representing the regional governments, The Honourable Philip Davis, KC, Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of Bahamas and Chairman of CARICOM made a special presentation to the Council marking the university’s 75th Anniversary. He commended The UWI for remaining steadfast in its commitment to the service of the Caribbean people despite the storms the region has weathered in the past 75 years and in turn pledged continued regional support; “I am particularly proud to report that the heads of government have pledged to continue supporting the growth and advancement of the university.”
The University Council Meeting is a longstanding governance proceeding during which appointments, the management of the finances, and all major business matters are decided. The public session was chaired by University Registrar, Dr. Maurice D. Smith and broadcast live via UWItv.