Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. Thursday, January 11, 2018—The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has made the greatest contribution to Caribbean development and integration according to Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Rt. Rev. Dr. Gregory made the remarks on January 8, 2018, during an interfaith service held in thanksgiving of the University’s 70th anniversary at The UWI Chapel in Mona, Jamaica.
In his sermon, Rev. Gregory endorsed The UWI’s current strategic plan which is inherently rooted in the concepts of community economic development, social justice and culture. “The light rising from the West is for us still that of the dawn, lest we delude ourselves into thinking that we are already in the mid-day or twilight. That the light shines, even if it flickers at times is captured for me in what has been advanced as [the University’s] Strategic Plan 2017-2022.”
He acknowledged the expansion and impact of the institution. “Today this university is able to boast that its graduates have made their mark throughout the Caribbean region as well as globally, in the public and private sectors, in church and state, in the arts, in industry, commerce and education, in medicine and nursing, science and technology, in social work and community development.” Indeed, its alumni and faculty have received the highest awards for excellence in the world, including Nobel Prizes in literature and economics, and many other honours.
He noted however, that while making a name for itself internationally, The UWI sometimes comes under unfair criticism, especially from among those who believe that more research is required; without considering that the vast majority of the resources made available to The UWI are for teaching rather than its research function. Further, much pertinent research done for governments is not acted upon because of political party divisions. “Every so often the elitist strain is heard as persons ridicule the large number of graduates who now have degrees from this institution, and who see in this a lowering of educational standards. The business sector offers its criticism of the institution for not turning out persons who are job ready. There are others who view this University as an ivory tower in a state of academic seclusion, while there are others who believe that the University is not pursuing and promoting sufficient research, including governments and their agencies that still have in their files the result of research undertaken by the University but which have never been implemented. It is true that this University has much more to offer to the Caribbean by way of research, but this will only happen through a process of dialogue by which governments and the private sector can indicate the kind of research that would be useful and be put to use by them.”
Remarking that as the leading tertiary institution in the Caribbean, The UWI cannot escape the ongoing debate regarding the purpose of education, Rev. Gregory underscored that even as the governments set the policies and contribute significantly to the funding, the University must still take a lead in guiding the philosophy of education. “So while there are those who would like to think that education should be first and foremost about preparing persons for the job market and this should be the driving force behind the whole educational system, I would hope that the University will never buy into the notion that education is about making persons functionaries of the labour market. Education which does not prepare persons to be critical, creative, and independent thinkers is not worthy of the name and may better be characterized as training or indoctrination, and may serve the interest of those in various sectors of leadership and power who can continue to manipulate and exploit our people.”
He further emphasized that while it is true that education is a major vehicle for individual and national development, it must also seek to help students forge a strong sense of identity as individuals and as citizens of the Caribbean, impart an appreciation of their history, the ability to reflect on the nature and dynamics of life in the society, whether in the social, political, economic or religious spheres, as well as the cultivation of a global perspective.
He called on The UWI to deepen its focus on morality, ethics and values. “The crisis of Wall Street a few years ago has led to an increasing emphasis on business ethics, while the professional disciplines tend to have their own focus on the ethical principles applicable to their profession. At the same time our society is wrestling with serious challenges in the area of values and attitudes, and the University must be a major stakeholder in the process of assisting its students and the wider society to shape this area of the life of the society,” he said. He implored that if The UWI is to maintain its character, it “must maintain a certain level of independence of thought and not just be subject to the fleeting policies and dictates of governments and power bases in the society.”
The celebratory Interfaith service marked the start of a series of events to commemorate The UWI’s anniversary milestone, bringing together members of the community along with staff, students and alumni. Over 350 guests attended the event, which featured rhythmic Caribbean hymns—like entrance anthem By the Rivers of Babylon— led by the University Singers of the Mona campus and a procession comprising all levels of the University’s Academic Staff and Student Council representatives.
Along with the members of the University’s Executive Management, dignitaries in attendance included representative of the Governor-General of Jamaica, Custos of St. Andrew, the Hon. Patricia Dunwell, Jamaica’s current Minister of Education, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid and former Minister, Rev. Ronald Thwaites. Other special guests present were Dr June Hassall, widow of Professor Cedric Hassall and Mrs Audrey Chan, widow of Professor Wilfred Chan. Both Hassall and Chan were Chemistry Professors during what was then the University College of the West Indies in 1948.
In this 70th year, The UWI celebrates its evolution from a university college situated at Mona with 33 medical students to an internationally respected regional university with near 50,000 students. With four campuses—at Mona, Jamaica, at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, at Cave Hill, Barbados, and the Open Campus, with sites throughout the region—the University has demonstrated its relevance and illustrated its quality as a site of excellence in the Caribbean. According to Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, “as the University celebrates 70 years of service, 70 years of leadership, it will focus on reflection as well as projection for the future with an emphasis on social justice and the economic transformation of the Caribbean region.” For more information and upcoming events, visit www.uwi.edu/70.
Notes to the Editor
Photo caption: Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory (left), Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands greets Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) following the Interfaith Service celebrating The UWI’s 70th anniversary at The UWI Chapel, Mona, Jamaica, January 7, 2018.
About The UWI
Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website: www.uwi.edu
(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)