President’s Greetings for the Occasion of UWI 70th Anniversary

Lake Independence Baptist Church
Mahogany & Partridge Streets
Belize City


  1. His Excellency the Governor General, Sir Colville Young, The Head, Open Campus, Ms. Jane Bennett, Mr. Harrison Pilgrim, Chair, Board of Trustees, University of Belize, Distinguished Alumni of the University of West Indies, Ladies & Gentleman.
  2. Let me thank the head of the Open Campus for giving the University of Belize and myself an opportunity to bring greetings on this very special occasion of the 70th Anniversary. At the onset therefore “best wishes to the Regional University of the West Indies on this 70th Anniversary and may the next 70 years bring it even greater success in advancing Caribbean Development and cohesiveness in “Regional Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation”.
  3. From its humble and early beginnings in 1948 at the Mona Campus with 33 Medical Students drawn from across the Region, the University of the West Indies has grown to be the leading Regional University in the world with approximately 50,000 students serving 16 countries in the English Speaking Caribbean, with four Campuses in Mona (1948), St. Augustine (1960), Cave Hill (1967) and the Open Campus (2008) with its various sites in the contributing countries, including Belize. It has produced approximately 100,000 graduates dispersed across the world: leaders of government, business education, law, engineering, medicine, agriculture and other key sectors, including Belizean leaders some of whom are gathered here.  There are much more accolades for this place that was historically described as a place of “light, learning and liberty”.  The history of the University of the West Indies, especially its philosophical underpinnings, is fascinating reading – an “elite vs a massified University”, a “residential vs a non-residential University”, and very importantly a “unified vs a more-federal University”. The latter was in keeping with the British Colonial’s Office that the British West Indies would form a political union and that the University of the West Indies would help build a new West Indies consciousness upon which West Indian nation-hood could be built.”[1]   Well the Federation of the West Indies established in 1958 failed in 1962, but the University of the West Indies continues to succeed and thrive despite the difficulties on its journey.  We often say it is the last bastion of “West Indianisation” noting the perilous state of West Indian Cricket.

The University of the West Indies has succeeded as it has steadily adapted over the last 70 years to meet the needs of its geographically and socially diverse stakeholders.  The establishment of the four Campuses over time has certainly made this happen, as well as its sites in the non-Campus countries.  Thoughtful leadership has brought us to where we are today and hence on this anniversary there is cause for much celebration.

However, as we look ahead, how can it adapt even further to shape the evolution of a much stronger West Indian space and consciousness – a community of people working, living, studying together, bringing our Regional University of the West Indies and our National Institutions like the University of Belize (and there are now several National Universities in the Region) into this much larger West Indian University collegiate system?  I have written before that “the essence of regionality goes beyond the unique, as the University of the West Indies is, but into the philosophical realm.  Regionality is premised on a philosophy that is noble; if subsumes values that are inclusive, compassionate and benevolent, values that promote reaching out, embracing and supporting our Caribbean brothers and sisters.”   But this I surely hope will occur as we strive for a greater good with thoughtful leaders in and outside of the University space.

Congratulations to the University of the West Indies, and as a UWI person “to the bone” having been associated with the UWI since 1969 and to this day. You have given us and our children much that we can be thankful and proud of and we look to this “light rising from the West” continuing to shine brightly on all of the Caribbean and the world over, as we look to the next 70 years.

Thank you.

Professor Clement Sankat
Past ProVice Chancellor & Campus Principal, UWI St Augustine
President, University of Belize
28th January, 2018

[1] (After –Viviene Roberts) – The Shaping of Tertiary Education in the Anglophone Caribbean, 2003).