UWI? Intellectual ghetto? We retired that criticism with performance, says Sir Hilary

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has defended his stewardship as vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), saying the performance of the tertiary institution over the past several years has retired criticisms that it is an intellectual ghetto.

“When I first came to this position the heads of governments took me into a room and said to me, ‘Listen, there are three things we would like you to achieve urgently. Number one, rebuild the global reputation of this university — people were saying the UWI is an intellectual ghetto [and that] it is not relevant.’ We had to dispel that with performance.

“We prepared the university and after three years of hard work we said let us take this university to global ranking to see if our work, leadership and commitment would gain global respect, and we were absolutely blown away by the work that was recognised,” Sir Hilary said yesterday during the 2021 UWI St Augustine Campus Council Meeting.

He said the university was told by the leadership for the ranking system that what it had accomplished in three years had taken other universities 30 years.

“We are number one in the Caribbean and in the top four per cent of the best 26,000 universities in the world; this is a phenomenal journey to the top. We are the only university that I know of in this hemisphere that has its own 24/7 cable channel; it was, and is, revolutionary,” he argued.

Making mention of the university’s five campuses and 10 international campuses, he said “there is already a new university. The UWI of today is not the same of 10 years ago”.

He said the past year, overshadowed as it has been by the novel coronavirus pandemic, “was UWI’s finest hour”.

“When we look at the chaos north and south of us in the Caribbean, we see where we have had our finest hour. We are now a global university, a highly respected university globally for the work that we have done,” Sir Hilary stated.

Pointing out that university leadership is not an ad-hoc business, he said the strategic plan is the framework for the transformation of The UWI that has led to its systematic reinvention in the last five years.

“We are driven by a modern matrix-based assessment reporting and measuring and we use the finest tools to demonstrate that… so those who have said the university muddles through without performance-based policies and measurements of KPIS it is not accurate,” he said.

“Our reputation as a university has never been higher because of the work that we have done. …UWI is mentoring the world, we are the most respected university in the developing world; no finger pointing, no unnecessary or unreasonable criticism. We encourage the critical discourse but it has to be done with accuracy and fairness and truthfulness,” he said.

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