ONE LOVE/ONE UWI #8 | Message from the Vice-Chancellor

A Series from Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

“In another life I’ll let the overgrowth
grow over me, once in a while
not pass the afternoon hedge clipping.
Come to think of it, maybe I’ll not
keep a hedge, nor hedge my bets
nor live so much in parenthesis.
I’ll study the passions and subtleties of weeds,
make new terms with earth, its terrors…”
[Extract from Hedge Trimming, a poem by Edward Baugh]
Staring us in our masked faces is the COVID-19 financial pandemic. We are about to enter a cycle of funding discussions in which our regional nations are projected to be stripped of double-digit GDP. The insidious assault upon our health and wealth has weakened both our bodies and bank balances. But, we press on, as we must.

In the next two weeks we shall be discussing, behind closed doors with our governments, biennial funding for our university. Rightly so, they are deeply concerned with the protection of our sovereignty and all institutions within. They have seen fiscal spaces shattered, narrowed and eliminated. They have seen COVID-19 expenditures busting budgets and taking up residency in the treasury.

The UWI, now two years beyond three scores and ten, has much historical knowledge of our pandemic lands and will plan with our sovereigns the best solutions to sustain the excellence it has achieved.

There is comfort in knowing that our leaders, corporate and political, are mostly our graduates and former colleagues. They have a profound understanding of the vital importance of their top-ranked, ultra-relevant university to the continued growth and development of the region.

COVID containment has been a community and collegial contest. Campuses and countries are stretched financially and emotionally, and our elasticity has extracted goodwill and optimism. Budgets and cash balances are far removed from many minds. But we shall continue to prepare for our students and staff as we serve with greater intensity and efficiency.

The university world will be radically restructured for the COVID journey; work has already begun. The swift transition to online emergency teaching speaks to internal confidence and resolve. An “Imagining” Task Force is in place with a mandate to conceptualize the 2020/2021 academic year.

We shall share our plans as we plan to share. A new UWI beckons: stronger, sharper focused, and more intimate with its investors and stakeholders.

Safety and blessings.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

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