Newly installed University of the West Indies (UWI) Chancellor Robert Bermudez said that UWI needs to start working with other learning institutions starting with primary school system to ensure they receive better prepared students. He said that these matriculants would be better able to benefit from a tertiary education.
The local entrepreneur who transformed his family-owned business to a regional business throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, was installed as UWI’s sixth chancellor at a gala ceremony held on Saturday night at the Daaga Auditorium, UWI St Augustine Campus. Bermudez said that UWI must see itself as an exporter of education and attracting international students will both improve finances and aid in diversity.
He also said that the university must continue to grow its commercial activities and partner with private sector and contributing territories in endeavours that require stepping out of their comfort zone. On students he said they cannot just produce certified people but energised youth and stressed social skills, empathy and concern for empathy were as important for success as technical skills.
He said UWI’s entrusting its leadership to someone outside of academia showed that in its 70th year it is “recalibrating itself to the demands of the future.” Bermudez thanked UWI for the “extraordinary honour” and praised his immediate predecessor Sir George Alleyne, who served from 2003-2017, as a “great West Indian” who had dedicated his life to the service of his country, his region and UWI.
He said that he started life as a baker and he still sees himself that way and him standing as UWI chancellor has made him aware of the “vagaries of life.” Bermudez said that as UWI turned 70 many Caribbean countries were approaching their 50th year of independence. He said that while the region may not have the material wealth of other countries “we are not backward; we are rich in talent.”
He said the world was changing at an astonishing pace and UWI must embrace change. He predicted that technology will displace many traditional jobs and UWI has a pivotal role to train young people for this changing world. He said that the greatest challenge will be ourselves and encouraged UWI I to dream by, act big and never conceive of failure.
Among those in attendance at Bermudez’s installation were President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Education Minister Anthony Garcia and other ministers, former UWI St Augustine principal Bhoe Tewarie, Caribbean Court of Justice President Sir Dennis Byron and regional ministers of education.
UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hillary Beckles in his remarks said Bermudez’s installation was a special moment that cries out for change and transformation. He said that it is a crossroads where UWI has “chosen a different path” and “a direction to radically transform the nature of our operations and the quality of service and our commitment.”
He said 2017/2018 academic year is the 70th year of the university and it has been an outstanding period of service for which the university can be justly proud. Beckles said, however, that it cannot be business as usual and UWI must rapidly evolve or become obsolete.
He reported that a balance scorecard system was being developed which would hold everyone accountable from the Chancellor, the campus principals to the caterers.
He said that UWI must return to its activist roots on comment on issues such as economic development, control of crime, reparations and rebuilding of the West Indies cricket team. He asked Bermudez to inspire, guide and empower them at UWI.
St Augustine Campus Principal Professor Brian Copeland said that the campus is totally committed to an agenda that inculcates a “culture of innovation.” He told Bermudez that given UWI’s task and Bermudez’s stellar and successful leadership in the Caribbean business realm UWI and the St Augustine campus in particular “sees great hope for success in future endeavours.