Just short of a year ago, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles indicated the intention of the University, “to be located in the top 3% of ranked universities by the end of the current strategic planning cycle in 2023.” Referencing an energetic and proactive leadership team of campus principals, pro vice-chancellors, multi-layered administrators and academics, research professors and student leaders, the Vice-Chancellor expressed confidence in the team’s ability to remove doubt from the institution in respect of its capacity to break new ground.
On Friday, July 17, 2020, Vice-Chancellor Beckles declared a resounding surpassing of this target by the Caribbean’s leading university, as Times Higher Education (THE) the globally recognised and most prestigious ranking agency for higher education, announced its 2020 rankings, and The UWI secured top spots on its three latest lists—Latin America University Rankings, Golden Age University Rankings, and Impact Rankings.
“Triple Firsts”, as coined by Vice-Chancellor Beckles, marks “The UWI’s breaking into the top 1% of universities in the Latin America and Caribbean region; the top 1% of Golden Age universities—i.e. the category of global universities between 50 to 80 years old; and retention of its number one position as the only Caribbean University to be ranked.”
“This remarkable achievement puts The UWI in an elite band,” Vice-Chancellor Beckles said. “We are elite, but not elitist.” He went on explain that, “the magnitude of this achievement is further contextualised within a landscape comprised of at least 209 Caribbean-based higher education institutions, an approximate 5,497 universities within Latin America and the Caribbean, and over 30,000 universities registered worldwide.”
In 2016, when Vice-Chancellor Beckles conceived and began rolling out the strategic plan together with The UWI’s leadership, he set an immediate objective to radically upgrade and globalise the regional University’s reputation and enhance its international visibility and competitiveness. THE’s Latin America University Rankings and Golden Age University Rankings have both allowed for The UWI to be assessed by standardised indicators that judge research-intensive universities worldwide across all their core strategic missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfers and international outlook.
According to Pro Vice-Chancellor, Planning, Professor Densil Williams, who is credited with overseeing the implementation of The UWI’s strategic plan, “The UWI’s excellent performance in these rankings demonstrate the success of a series of deliberate strategic initiatives implemented under the framework of its Triple A Strategy (Strategic Plan 2017-2022). These include but are not limited to global expansion through partnership with internationally recognised universities to establish centres and institutes across the globe; advancement in the entrepreneurial ethos of The UWI through greater linkages with the corporate sector; and production of impactful research to address societal problems in climate change, nutrition, economic development inter alia.”
Vice-Chancellor offered special commendation to the entire UWI community, recognising, “the tremendous work being done university-system wide to meet the Triple A targets, which has not only driven overall productivity, but has stirred an upsurge in engagement and brand reputation regionally, internationally and in scholastic advocacy on multiple issues of global significance.”
He concluded, “In spite of this year’s myriad challenges for the Caribbean community and the wider world, our University has had some high moments, signalling our strength and the success of our strategic plan and efforts. This is yet another of The UWI’s finest hours.”
The ranking criteria used by the UK-based agency provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons which are trusted and utilised by students, academics, university leaders, industry and even governments. The UWI’s continued appearances and progressions in these rankings affirm its prestige and leadership as a now familiar and consistent name in the global higher education arena.