On January 5, 1949, the Royal Charter of the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) – which would become the University of the West Indies in 1962 – was sealed. This process of making an impression of the British monarch’s official Seal, and attaching it to the relevant document by a woven cord, made official a decision taken by King George VI on December 22, 1948.
The king had approved what would be the first of three Royal Charters granted to the university through its history. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, would authorise the UWI’s second Charter, issued in 1962 when the university became a full degree-granting institution, independent of its initial association with the University of London; as well as a third and current Charter issued in 1974.
The Irvine Committee had expected the new university college to be chartered and the first meeting of the Provisional Council, held January 7-9 1947 in Kingston, resolved to apply for the grant of a Royal Charter that would give the new UCWI “the necessary privileges and powers” to officially conduct its business. It also approved formal application to the University of London for a ‘Special relationship’ that would initially affect the content of curricula and courses.
The first charter never reached Jamaica and the fledgling college had to overcome high administrative hurdles to rectify this early setback.. . But we’ll pick up that story soon.
The 1962 Charter is normally on display in the museum. (We re-open January 11, 2016)