Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who is currently in the final year of his six-year contract, has been reappointed by the institution’s highest governing body, the University Council, for a second six-year term.
The Council which met virtually on Friday, April 30, for its annual business meeting, approved the renewal of Vice-Chancellor Beckles’ term based on an appraisal of his performance. This included his leadership of the regional university during the throes of pandemic, which saw the University rising to the expectations of its stakeholders, described by the Vice-Chancellor himself as “The UWI’s finest hour.”
Regarded internationally as a visionary, distinguished academic, thought leader, and global public activist, Sir Hilary who is a Professor of Economic History and Economic Development, was first appointed to serve as Vice-Chancellor of The UWI in May 2015. Vice-Chancellor Beckles has been a leading voice on higher education not just in the Caribbean region, but across the hemisphere and internationally. Most recently, he was named as a Visionary Expert for UNESCO IESALC’s Futures of Higher Education project to help to chart the course ahead for the global industry. This latest appointment by the specialised UN institute follows former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s 2013 invitation to serve as a Special Advisor and inaugural member of a Science Advisory Board on Sustainable Development.
Over the past six years he conceptualized the University’s Triple A Strategy which is committed to leveraging the resources and capabilities of the University in the quest for the revitalisation of Caribbean development. His stewardship was vital in the University’s debut into the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings, in which it is currently the number one university in the Caribbean, among the top 1% in Latin America and top 1% of worldwide universities between 50 and 80 years old. This bolstered the first phase of the Triple A Strategy referred to as the “Reputation Revolution”.
In this phase, Sir Hilary spearheaded an aggressive global reputation building strategy, which has resulted in ten global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. He also forged strategic industry partnerships to allow for the widened penetration of The UWI brand through new media channels and 24/7 cable television programming made possible by the creation of a public information and education service – UWItv.
In acknowledgement of his breadth of contributions, Sir Hilary has received numerous awards, including the degrees of Honorary Doctor of Letters from Brock University in Canada; the University of Glasgow in Scotland; the University of Hull in England; the Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology in Ghana; and the Degree of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of the Virgin Islands.
In 2007, he received the highest national honour in Barbados, Commander Knight of St. Andrew (KA), “in recognition of his distinguished service in the fields of Education, Sports and the Arts”. Other accolades include the marking of March 21, 2017, as Sir Hilary Beckles Day in the Town of Hartford, Connecticut, for his global contribution to social justice and human equality; the 2015 Global Community Healer Award for humanitarian work from the Community Healer Network, Washington DC, following the legendary Maya Angelou; the Sisserou Award of Honour from the Government of Dominica in 2016, for “his contribution to the Commonwealth of Dominica and the region in the field of Education”; and the 2020 honour as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation, in recognition of his “extensive work as a thought leader in the field of social justice and minority empowerment.” Earlier this year, Sir Hilary’s global advocacy for reparatory justice, equality and economic development for people of the African diaspora was celebrated with the conferral of the Martin Luther King Jr Global Award for Peace and Freedom by the US National Action Network (NAN).
Beyond his university service, Sir Hilary plays multiple roles in the Caribbean private sector. He is a long-serving director of Sagicor Financial Corporation—the largest, international financial services conglomerate in the Caribbean region. He served as a director of Cable and Wireless Barbados Ltd. for ten years, and was also a director of the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket World Cup Inc. He is founder and director of the CLR James Centre for Cricket Research, and founder and Chairman of the West Indies Cricket Board’s Cricket High Performance Centre. He is currently Vice President of the Commonwealth Advisory Body of Sport and Development, Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), President of Universities Caribbean, and Director of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.
As he embarks on his second term, beginning August 1, 2021, Vice-Chancellor Beckles is focused on maximising The UWI’s academic reputation as a first-class, globally-respected public enterprise to lead the regional university through the second phase of its strategic plan, “Revenue Acceleration”.