Seventy years after the first Royal Charter laid the foundation for the governance of the University of the West Indies, the UWI petitioned for a simple yet profound change: By an amendment approved on November 7, 2018, it repatriated the position of Visitor, previously held by the British Monarch.
Now, the UWI’s Council, its highest decision-making body, will appoint a regional figure of high judicial office, as Visitor of the University, upon the recommendation of the Caribbean Court of Justice. In the meantime, until the Council holds its regular annual meeting in April 2019, Retired Justice Paul Harrison of Jamaica will preside over any outstanding cases.
The first Royal Charter was granted in December 1948, confirmed in January 1949, to the then University College of the West Indies. It was considered a signal honour to the new regional institution, but also had the practical advantage of creating a single basis for managing the multi-national institution. From that time, it was perhaps anticipated that the West Indian territories would move towards a joint future – a plan jettisoned in 1962 when a nascent Federation was disbanded and individual territories began moving to independence.
The second Charter was granted in April 2, 1962 to the University of the West Indies, now a fully-fledged, degree granting institute in its own right; free of its earlier tutelage under the University of London, to which it was initially associated.
The third Charter, which became effective on August 25, 1972, contained provisions felt to provide “a better framework within which the Academic and Administrative structure of the University could be organised to meet the problems arising from its multi-campus situation”. The University which started with a single regional campus at Mona, Jamaica, by 1972 had three campuses at Mona, St Augustine in Trinidad and Cave Hill in Jamaica as well as numerous university centres in non-campus regional territories. In 2008 a fourth Open Campus was added to pull together these centres as well as distance and online programmes.
The 2018 amendments accept the new form of Visitor; and also confirm the UWI’s right to use the Coat of Arms originally granted in 1949 to the then UCWI.