The UWI and Open Society Foundations sign landmark MOU to deepen collaboration

The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, Friday, September 18, 2020 — One of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, Open Society Foundations (OSF), has demonstrated its alignment with the strategic vision of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).  This was symbolized by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two entities — signed by Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and President of the OSF, Ambassador Patrick Gaspard on Thursday, September 17, 2020. This collaboration agreement between both institutions is the culmination of several months of discussions in support of Open Society’s dedicated strategy for engaging the Caribbean, led by their Latin America Program team and the University Office of Global Partnerships and Sustainable Futures. It comes at a time when the vulnerability of the Caribbean region is heightened, as it confronts a crisis of unprecedented proportions, resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing effects of climate change. 

The Open Society Foundations was founded by one of the world’s foremost philanthropists, George Soros, who has donated over US$32 billion to help build open societies across the globe by promoting justice, democratic governance and human rights. President Gaspard underscored the Open Society Foundations’ commitment to investing in higher education, a key pillar of an open society.  

“This MOU further cements a long-term and deep relationship and reaffirms our commitment to address issues important to The UWI, OSF and the Caribbean. Together, we will work to fight climate change, racial injustice, and attacks on democracy,” Gaspard said.

Over the past six years, The UWI has worked with Open Society and received grant funding that supported ground-breaking child development research, successful strategic litigation for decriminalizing same-sex relationships, and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leadership on cannabis decriminalization at regional and international levels. More recently, the Open Society Foundations approved a grant to The UWI to support the University’s wide-ranging climate change research and focus on climate justice as well as the consolidation of climate initiatives through its Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development. This comes on the heels of his keynote address to Heads of Government and Ministers at a regional meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) last week. At that meeting, Vice-Chancellor Beckles emphasized the significance of The UWI’s global collaborations which help to keep the Caribbean as well as the University’s research on issues affecting the region, at the centre of discourses on development. 

“Our interconnectedness as a global community emphasizes the need for transnational responses to address the unique multidimensional development challenges faced by Caribbean societies.  We cannot do it alone.  Open Society Foundation is demonstrating its exceptional leadership and deep concern for the Caribbean and we warmly welcome this,” explained Vice-Chancellor Beckles.  “Our efforts to build a world-class regional university cannot be allowed to dissipate at this critical time.  We continue to strengthen our network of partners and through our collaborations, provide opportunities for young people and support to our regional governments as they undertake the economic and social transformation needed to build more just, inclusive and sustainable societies,” Vice-Chancellor Beckles added. 

The joint activities between Open Society Foundations and The UWI are expected to include academic and educational content; research and innovation initiatives as well as training workshops, conferences, symposia, etc. Institutional and/or capacity building initiatives are also anticipated and importantly, education and outreach to promote human rights and democracy in the Caribbean region.  Participation in the Open Society University Network (OSUN) is also being explored.


About The Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. It provides thousands of grants every year through a network of national and regional foundations and offices, funding a vast array of projects—many of them now shaped by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more, visit

About The UWI

For over 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI has evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and an Open Campus. As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ); The UWI-University of Havana Centre for Sustainable Development; The UWI-Coventry Institute for Industry-Academic Partnership with the University of Coventry and the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of Glasgow.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. 

As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. The world’s most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, has ranked The UWI among the top 600 universities in the world for 2019 and 2020, and the 40 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean for 2018, 2019 and 2020. The UWI has been the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists.  For more, visit (Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)

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