Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles recently congratulated his strategy and leadership group for successfully guiding the University through the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. He called upon the region to recognise the excellent work done by the teams on all campuses across the region in transitioning the University to full online/remote teaching and management, enabling students to progress through their programmes of study.
He indicated, however, that the time is right to return the gaze to addressing the most important matter of repositioning the University to be globally competitive and financially sustainable in its journey to 2025-2030. Only a reengineered UWI, he said, will be able to deliver even more effectively on the region’s development agenda.
The post-COVID University will therefore be a very different kind of academy, he said, fully embracing the communications and production technology in order to be more agile in capturing opportunities to enhance its financial health while promoting the diversity of development discourses in the region.
Addressing colleagues gathered virtually for a Strategic Planning Retreat hosted in November, the Vice-Chancellor outlined the very significant steps already taken in this regard:
1. significant cuts in budgetary expenditure for the 2020-2021 year with more to come in 2021-2022;
2. fostering of intimate partnership relationships with major international donors in order to facilitate research and advocacy around the development agenda of the region;
3. building bonds of engagement with critical multilateral organisations in order to create new and innovative clusters of activity in areas of urgent regional needs such as climate change, digital transformation, innovation studies, public health management, food security, financial services, tourism enhancement, social justice for democratic advancement, and production technology development;
4. facilitating industry-academic partnerships to drive the process of regional economic diversification and competitiveness;
5. being the global eyes and ears of the Caribbean.
The Vice-Chancellor spoke also about the equally important advancements by the University to contribute to the economic transformation process in Guyana and Suriname.
Cross-referencing his stimulating conversation with President Irfaan Ali of Guyana to the south he noted that President-elect Joe Biden of the USA to the north had written indicating his respect for the work and reputation of The UWI. Both engagements, the Vice-Chancellor stated, have been particularly encouraging at this critical time in repositioning the University for the 2025-2030 period.
The University, he added further, has effectively built and internationalised its identity as a global leader and the time is ripe to convert its reputation into revenue. The University is advanced in its preparations to enter the regional capital market with a number of bankable projects, an indication of its readiness to be entrepreneurial at a significant level.
Beyond the region, The UWI is also preparing to transform its online academic capacity into a global strategy by rolling out another stage in the development of the Open Campus. The evolving UWI Global Online is expected to go live before the University approaches its 75th anniversary in 2023.
The reputation of The UWI has never been higher, reiterated Vice-Chancellor Beckles. Working in partnership with some of the finest international universities on all continents the expectation is that The UWI will be well-positioned to preserve its regional and global elite rankings while restructuring its economic infrastructure. The leadership energy and management effort that led to its successful reputation revolution will now be honed and directed to achieve similar business results.