The UWI’s Royal Charter amended to appoint Justice Rolston Nelson as Visitor, replacing Her Majesty the Queen.

In a historic move on the heels of The University’s 70th anniversary, the Honourable Justice Rolston Fitzherbert Nelson (retired) has been appointed Visitor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) with effect from May 1, 2019—a position previously held by Her Majesty the Queen of England.

Since inception, Article 6 of The UWI’s original Royal Charter has stated that Her Majesty the Queen holds the title of “Visitor” of the University, which confers on the holder the right or duty of occasionally inspecting and reporting on a college or other academic institution. The decision to appoint Justice Nelson was finalised during the closed session of the meeting of the University Council on April 26, 2019 hosted at the St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago.

A key role of the Visitor is to settle UWI disputes with staff and/or students. Traditionally, staff and students have had the right to appeal decisions of the University to the Visitor after all other internal remedies had been exhausted. The Visitor has the authority to adjudicate on matters based on the interpretation and application of the University’s Charter, Statutes, Ordinances, Regulations and other governing instruments and his/her decisions on such matters are considered final.

However, in the last 10 years, none of the appeals of students and staff have been heard. In its pursuit of having justice served and a system in place to expedite hearings on such matters, The UWI initiated proceedings in 2015 to propose that the Visitor delegate this responsibility to a judicial officer of high repute. The appointment of Justice Nelson means that there is now a functional system for any petitions to be heard expeditiously.

The process leading to Justice Nelson’s appointment follows the precedent set by other Commonwealth universities established by Royal Charter, to amend their Charters to empower their University’s Councils to name their Visitors. On November 7, 2018, Her Majesty endorsed, and the Privy Council approved the amendment to Article 6 of The UWI’s Charter to have its Council name its Visitor.

At its meeting on April 26, 2019, University Council accepted the recommendation to appoint Justice Nelson, eminent jurist, as the first Visitor from the region. Justice Nelson will serve for a period of five years, in the first instance.