The University of the West Indies is truly exceptional. For nearly 75 years, The University of the West Indies has been a beacon of light for educating the people of the English-Speaking Caribbean; a light that has spread to the corners of the Earth.
With its history linking back to the University College of London, The University of the West Indies began in Jamaica during the post-World-War-II era. Beginning with just 33 medical students in 1948, The University of the West Indies has grown 1,500 times over and is now an internationally-respected university with almost 50,000 students and 5 campuses across the Caribbean Region.
The University of the West Indies has always been growing from strength to strength and gaining recognition around the world at record speeds. The University of the West Indies was ranked among the top 600 universities worldwide since 2018.
And in 2020, The University of the West Indies made it to the top 100 Golden Age University Rankings and Impact Rankings. The University of the West Indies remains the only Caribbean university and one of two Latin American universities to make these prestigious lists.
The University of the West Indies is a producer of exceptional talent par excellence. The University of the West Indies’ alumni base numbers over 230,000 talented and critical-thinking individuals.
The University of the West Indies boasts of two Emmy Award winners (Suzanne de Passe, Kwame Dawes), five Nobel Laureates (Sir Derek Walcott, Sir Arthur Lewis, and Professors Anthony Chen, Leonard Nurse and John Agard), a Man Booker Prize winner, 22 heads of government, and an Olympic medallist (Hansle Parchment).
The University of the West Indies has leading entrepreneurs, thought-provokers, academics, artists, CEOs, consultants, educators, scientists, researchers and politicians who are impacting the Caribbean and the wider world.
While the University of the West Indies may be considered small compared to many international universities, this institution of higher learning has had a huge impact, particularly on the Caribbean region.
Consider that with a small alumni base of 230,000, the University of the West Indies has one of the highest heads of state per capita of alumni.
UWI has the highest number of heads of state among its alumni compared to other universities:
The British Virgin Islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Trinidad and Tobago
Saint Vincent and The Grenadines
Can you imagine a better place to study that in a tropical, relaxed, fun environment? Well, you don’t need to imagine, the Caribbean provides the perfect setting to inspire creativity and invigorate the mind.
The Caribbean offers 365 days of sunshine, sprawling white sandy beaches, astonishing sea views, fresh air, rich and unique culture, and a no-fuss and hassle-free way of life. These elements come together to create the best place to study in the world.
And while The University of the West Indies may be ranked among the top 5% in the world, it is definitely #1, in my book, in terms of location, atmosphere and vibe.
The Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures, creeds and races. With influences from Africa, India, Europe and America, the Caribbean is an example of multi-cultural integration and inclusiveness par excellence. And this multi-cultural model is concentrated within the educational institution of The University of the West Indies.
The University of the West Indies is one of only two universities in the world that has a regional scope. The University of the West Indies extends from Belize in Central America to Jamaica in the northern Caribbean to Barbados in the east and Trinidad and Tobago in the south.
Apart from West Indies Cricket, The University of the West Indies is the only initiative of regional integration that is actually working and growing from strength to strength.
The University of the West Indies is an avid advocate for ‘One Caribbean’ development. And has adopted a leadership role in uniting and partnering with other institutions of learning across CARICOM, as well as the wider Caribbean including countries such as Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the French and Dutch-speaking Antilles.
The University of the West Indies has not taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to providing tertiary level education. While the five campuses share many common programmes, there is also a degree of specialisation. For example, Jamaica is known for its exceptional athletes such as Usain Bolt and Marlene Ottey. It is no surprise then, that the Mona Campus offers programmes in Sport.
Similarly, Trinidad and Tobago is known for its main export of oil and gas. St. Augustine therefore offers the widest range of programmes in Engineering than any of the other campuses.
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago has been focusing on agriculture and food production for many years to support its thriving food processing/manufacturing industry. The St. Augustine Campus fittingly has the only faculty dedicated to Food and Agriculture.
Barbados has been acclaimed as a hub for culture and the creative industries within the region. Cave Hill Campus specialises in studies of culture, creative, and performing arts.
Trinidad & Tobago
Antigua & Barbuda
Humanities and Education
Science and Technology
Food and Agriculture
Culture, Creative and Performing Arts
While The University of the West Indies has its roots in the Caribbean it has not remained insular or isolated from the rest of the world. In fact, The University of the West Indies is one of the most globalised universities. The University of the West Indies has 9 global centres spread across 5 continents – Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
The University of the West Indies is leading in sustainable development and aims to have a positive impact on the Caribbean and the wider world. Through learning, research, information sharing and innovation The University of the West Indies with a mission to advance learning, create knowledge and foster innovation for the positive transformation of the Caribbean and the wider world. The University of the West Indies has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region.
The University of the West Indies has been an advocate for Climate change action and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The University of the West Indies’s efforts towards the attainment of the SDGs, as well as, its work towards the 2030 development agenda, did not go unnoticed. The International Association of Universities (IAU) recognised The University of the West Indies as the lead university for SDG 13 (Climate Action) for its decades of contribution to research on climate change and sustainable development.
The University of the West Indies is also recognised as the leading university producer of information on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Read more on The University of the West Indies’ climate action.
At The University of the West Indies, black lives matter. The University of the West Indies has been a forerunner on global reparatory justice for the enslavement of Africans in the Caribbean. The University of the West Indies committed to greater advocacy and awareness building. And has made social justice one of its core missions.
In 2019 The University of the West Indies made history in the reparatory justice movement. The University of the West Indies partnered with Glasgow University in Scotland to create the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research. This initiative and partnership promises a 20-year commitment of a £20 million investment placing it at the forefront of global reparations.
While the University of the West Indies is doing an exceptional job, there are still some missed opportunities that need to be addressed.
The Caribbean is known for steelpan, calypso, reggae, fast runners and unique cuisine. However, courses that reflect the very elements that make the Caribbean unique and special are lacking at the University of the West Indies.
We challenge UWI to treat with these shortfalls by including programmes that address cultural gaps. For example, a programme on reggae; a department of steelpan; a Caribbean Culinary School annexed to UWI. These are just examples. But in the words of Prime Minister Mia Motley, we need to aim for excellence in those areas that we are great and unique at. And what better area than our unique Caribbean culture.
With the emerging political landscape and the rise of the economic power of China, it is perhaps in the best interest of the Caribbean for UWI to develop competencies in the Chinese language and culture.
Kevon Wilson, is a premier researcher and strategist. He has more than 16 years’ experience in research and digital marketing.
He is co-author of many of Leve Global’s research publications such as Big Data – Delivering the Big Picture to Drive Competitiveness, Everything You Need to Know About Internet Marketing, and The Top Ten Emerging Markets.