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The Vice Chancellor’s 2009 Report to Council

 

The year 2008 proved to be an exceptional one for The University of the West Indies. It marked the 60th Anniversary of our founding, an event recognised in different ways in all 15 of our contributing countries. Our rich harvest of graduates – Heads of States, Prime Ministers, Ministers of government, professionals, business and civil leaders – came out in proud numbers to attend banquets, galas, cultural performances, church services of thanksgiving, numerous symposia and lectures on all of our four campuses. Commemorative stamps were issued in 12 countries. A publication entitled “60 Under 60” recognising the broad and exceptional work of some of our current younger academics was broadly distributed and very well received. On July 1, the Regional Endowment Fund was launched which will be expected to grow in perpetuity with donations from alumni and friends. The proceeds of the Fund will be used only for scholarships, academic chairs and upgrading facilities. The fund approximated US$4 million at the end of the year and we hope our alumni and friends will strive to achieve a target of US$20 million by 2014 (a small sum by comparison with large US Universities but to quote the Chinese saying,  “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”).

The year 2008 also marked the launch of our fourth, Open Campus, and Mona’s “Western Campus”. The Open Campus is an amalgamation of the School of Continuing Studies, the UWI Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) and the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit. This entity will reach beyond the walls of the three traditional Campuses utilising on-line and face-to-face modalities to teach students of all ages across the education spectrum – pre-university, undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma, certificate and professional upgrade programmes. A major goal is that this initiative will help to draw the UWI-12 countries more into the fold of the University. Equally exciting was the launch of the “Mona West” in November 2008, a campus in Montego Bay with programmes specific to hospitality and tourism, Spanish, business, etc., recognising the importance of tourism in this part of Jamaica and the heavy investments made recently by the Government of Spain.

In the past year we also advanced several steps towards the goals of our 2007-2012 Strategic Plan, the vision of which is:
“By 2012, the UWI will be an innovative internationally competitive, contemporary university deeply rooted in the Caribbean committed to creating the best possible future for all our stakeholders. It will be the university of first choice for the region’s students and talented academics. It will provide a truly supportive environment that rewards excellence and it will be agile enough to thrive in a dynamic global environment.”

The four central areas of the Plan are: Teaching and Learning; growing our Graduate Programmes; strengthening Research and Innovation; and strengthening our Outreach sector. These are underpinned by six “enablers”: Transformation of the Administrative Culture; Financing the Enterprise; Marketing and Branding; Strengthening National Engagement Processes; Strengthening Regionality; and International Partnerships.

Within the context of Teaching and Learning, we are conducting university-wide reviews of courses and programmes with an emphasis on reform to make them more learner-oriented, current, practical and better focussed on national and regional development goals. All new academics will be required to obtain a certificate in teaching within three years of their employment. While limited by the tragically low funds available in our region for research, our academic and administrative staff have sought funding from the European Union, CIDA and other international Agencies to support programmes in areas such as sustainable development, climate change, agro-biotechnology, alternative energy, HIV/AIDS and other health related areas, to name a few. We are also aggressively enhancing our postgraduate programmes with an emphasis on building a new, much broader category of researchers and innovators. It is with some pride that we have noted in recent times, increased publications in peer-reviewed journals, patents filed and technical papers produced by our faculty. The creation of the Open Campus and the Mona Western Campus, as well as several other campus-based initiatives to engage government and communities, speak to our outreach goals.

With respect to the “enabling goals” within the Strategic Plan, we are working hard on a plan to transform our administrative systems to achieve greater efficiency and customer service. An effort related to this goal is the creation of a single, seamless, virtual ICT space for all four Campuses. This will improve and decrease the cost of communication and enable academics to link with colleagues and students anywhere in this space. Our progress in marketing and branding   was best evidenced in the successful promotion of the 60th anniversary celebration. Progress is being made toward goals of strengthening national engagements, and enhancing regionality.

As the hurricane winds of the global economic crisis descend upon us, one of our Strategic Plan’s enablers, financing the enterprise, becomes especially important. While the commitment of our governments to continue to fund this important regional enterprise is vital, we know that any sustainability and growth will also rely on generating more revenues even while we contain costs and minimise expenditure. Recognising that each campus exists in a different economic environment, Principals have been charged to mobilise their communities to maximise revenues and minimise expenditure. At the University level, we shall work as a region to share best practices and to look for opportunities to support each other, for if one campus fails, we shall all suffer.
Great universities of our world have existed over centuries, surviving depressions, wars (even national defeats), plagues and other catastrophes. They have survived because their people recognised that these institutions were guardians of their civilisation and the promise of their future. In our 61st year, the Regional University of the West Indies, through the abundantly rich product of its graduates, through its scholarship, contributions to government, business and civic life has done and will do for West Indians what other great universities have accomplished for their people. The UWI has leapt beyond the status of “Trade Schools” or a degree granting mill for students with vouchers. We have carved out a path that can assure the future of our people – it is one that we hope our governments, alumni, business and broader community will support.
Click here to download a full pdf version of the Vice Chancellorís Report to Council [6MB]