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Newly appointed Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir George Alleyne has challenged the institution to undertake a fundamental re-examination of some of the assumptions which have guided its operations in recent years.

Addressing his first meeting of the governing Council of the UWI, Sir George noted that in discussion with several Heads of Government, the issue of tertiary education in the Caribbean had been raised in the context of the desirability of having some assessment of the nature and scope of the various offerings in the region. In addition, there was concern as to whether the Caribbean governments appreciated the implications for the tertiary education sector of the liberalisation of higher education, as was being proposed in the WTO/GATS agreement. He emphasised the critical importance and urgency of both issues which would both have to be addressed by the University.

Sir George commended the work that had gone into the 1994 Chancellor’s Commission on Governance of the UWI. However, he noted that the time had come to reflect on the validity of some of the assumptions and the manner in which the structure had functioned and to make adjustments. He proposed that Council re-examine the 1994 Commission’s Report as it pertains to the governance issues to determine which recommendations remained valid. Some of the issues to be examined, he said, would have relevance at the University as well as Campus levels.

Turning to the work of the Council itself, Sir George remarked that the Governance Report had envisaged that Council would serve as “a forum whereby the UWI is judged as to whether it is meeting the needs of its many publics. The agenda of its meetings should be constructed so as to provide ample opportunity for debate about the larger issues, the University’s progress and its successes and failures and should not allow itself to become bogged down in formal business”. He suggested that Council could make better use of the undoubted talent that it had but said that one concern was that the body was now too large to be able to fulfil the role envisaged for it and some of its roles had been taken over by some of Council’s own sub-committees.

He argued for a re-examination of the role and functions of the University Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Strategy Committee and suggested that the present planning function in the University needed to be strengthened, particularly as it related to the financial future of the University.

At another level, Sir George also commented on the importance of the University establishing good relations with its alumni, adding that in his visits to the non-campus territories, he had been pleased by the respect accorded the University and noted the challenge to retain that respect. He suggested that the University consider removing the distinction that presently exists between ‘campus’ and ‘non-campus’ countries and to simply recognise that wherever the University has a physical presence there is a campus. The existing University Centres would then simply be known as “The University of the West Indies Country/site campus”. He said that at the appropriate time he would be asking Council to formally approve that change.

The all-day Council meeting reflected on many of the issues which had been raised by the Chancellor and endorsed the need for a re-examination of some of the critical aspects of University governance.
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