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2016 end-of-year message from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

Dear esteemed colleagues,

I extend my warmest greetings to you all as we meet the end of 2016. I hope it has been a rewarding year for you all.

This year has been dedicated to the rekindling of the activist university. We are determined to be more engaged—locally, externally, globally and re-energised to confront the region’s challenges in the search for sustainable solutions. I believe we have made a great deal of impact in 2016 in demonstrating service to the region. Admittedly, this year brought myriad challenges as Caribbean territories continue to tread the waters of economic recession and this circumstance directly impacts the sustainability of our beloved University. How we have been able to create and sustain a successful university even to this point is sometimes puzzling to outsiders. However our core competencies are our collective intellect and resilience which we have developed and maintained over the past 68 years. We hold dear our commitment to be a beacon for the transformation of ourselves, our institution and society.

At the start of the year we set out to formulate and implement the ONE UWI vision to bring our university together as one community with a singular strategic vision and increased functional coherence. We intend to go into the wider world with one voice and one identity, as a unified intellectual force, and you will continue to see many transformations in this regard.

In February when the Zika virus began making regional headlines as a growing threat, we recognised that as a regional University we have a duty and a responsibility to confront such challenges head-on. The UWI Regional Zika virus Task Force was formed to leverage the University’s expertise and coordinate efforts with regional governments, health ministries and other agencies.

Later in February, we announced the establishment of The UWI China Institute of Information Technology (UWICIIT), formed through an agreement with the Global Institute of Software Technology (GIST) in China. This was the first major step of The UWI moving into the global space, and we were delighted to welcome our first cohort of students into the BSc Software Engineering programme in the 2016 academic year..

At the annual University Council Meeting in April, we introduced a new Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) position to drive the global agenda; PVC of Global Affairs, Ambassador Dr Richard Bernal. Subsequently all PVCs’ portfolios were more closely aligned with the 2017-2022 strategic path. We now have Professor Densil Williams as the PVC Academic-Industry Partnerships and Planning; Professor Alan Cobley, who in addition to being PVC Undergraduate Studies, has responsibility for Access and Quality; Professor Dale Webber, PVC Graduate Studies and Research is also responsible for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Campus Principals, in their capacities as Pro Vice-Chancellors, have greater responsibilities in the areas of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and One UWI, Student Services, Open and UWI-SUNY, and Capital Infrastructure, Development and Financing.

In April we also celebrated the accomplishments of our student athletes through the inaugural UWI Vice-Chancellor’s Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year Awards, taking on the responsibility to ensure the cultivation and retention of sporting excellence. We will continue to build well-developed sports programmes at our campuses and will soon establish a Faculty of Sport at The UWI.

As an activist university, constantly and actively engaged in all of the main issues facing this region, we led the conversation on Brexit and its impact on the Caribbean in June; and continued similar dialogue on the recently concluded US Presidential elections.

In August, we observed our first Global Giving Week, a fundraising model aimed at increasing The UWI’s drive for self-sufficiency, with the hope that this initiative would be the beginning of an annual tradition of support and engagement from our vast alumni base and corporate partners, to give back to the institution.

The UWI then partnered with the State University of New York (SUNY) in September, to launch the SUNY UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development, yet another initiative to take The UWI global.

We recognised six persons and one department for exemplary service at the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in October; confirmation that there is much excellence within The UWI that is deserving of recognition and celebration.

Part of sustaining our own university is a responsibility to ensure the support of the higher education industry in the region. So in November, The UWI hosted tertiary education partners and international donors for consultations to begin a discourse on restructuring the Caribbean higher education system to drive economic growth in the region.

In the first week in December, working in close partnership with CaribVision, the regional cable service of the Caribbean Media Corporation and the RJR Group in Jamaica, we launched UWItv, a new multimedia public information and education service, offering a variety of programmes showcasing the scholarship and many public events and activities that take place daily at the University.

My mantra is that universities are not meant to serve themselves; they are built to serve the needs of their communities. It is imperative to constantly prove year by year that we are working in the interest of our Caribbean community and adding value to our societies. This is how we will guarantee a bright future for the region as well as the need for the role of The UWI.

Even as we reflect on the achievements of 2016, we press ahead with the work of building our university, our communities and our region to secure a positive future. We just concluded a strategic planning retreat at the Cave Hill campus. The new direction of The UWI is being organised around a “Triple A” strategy of alignment between industry and academia for wealth creation and distribution; expansion of access to tertiary education and increased agility to global opportunities, and our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan will be built upon this philosophy..

I look forward to your continued support as we embark on this journey. Season’s greetings to you and your loved ones and a bright and positive 2017.

In the first week in December, working in close partnership with CaribVision, the regional cable service of the Caribbean Media Corporation and the RJR Group in Jamaica, we launched UWItv, a new multimedia public information and education service, offering a variety of programmes showcasing the scholarship and many public events and activities that take place daily at the University.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles,
Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies