Sir Hilary: UN Visionary Expert on Higher Education

The United Nations has invited Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), to serve as an expert for its “Futures of Higher Education Project”. Led by the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNESCO-IESALC), the project is intended to “generate innovative and visionary ideas about the purpose and functions of higher education.”

Image of UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.
UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

The invitation to Sir Hilary from Francesc Pedró, UNESCO-IESALC Director, states, “you will have the opportunity to share your ideas and wisdom” while “stimulating creative and imaginative thinking and ideas about the futures of higher education from multiple and global perspectives.”

The five-member panel of experts includes Professor Ronald Barnett from University College London; Professor Mpine Makoe, from University of South Africa; Professor Simon Marginson from University of Oxford and Professor Takyiwaa Manuh from University of Ghana.

The panel will provide relevant data and ideas to inform the UNESCO-IESALC Futures of Education Global Initiative and will provide much of the evidentiary basis for a report to be published in November 2021. The aim is to envision the higher education landscape beyond 2030 and to shape world opinion about the 2050 horizon.

Sir Hilary was also selected in 2017 to provide this visioning as President of the 48-member association, “Universities Caribbean”, and has conceptualised and implemented The UWI’s Triple “A” Strategic Plan built around pillars of “Access”, “Alignment” and “Agility”. The two-phased strategy emphasizes firstly, the launch of a “reputation revolution” for The UWI, with a second phase to convert “reputation to revenue.” It is considered one of the most visionary and transformative strategic plans in global higher education and is the basis of The UWI’s rocketing to the top of regional and global universities rankings.

Commenting on the invitation to shape the future of the global higher education landscape, Sir Hilary noted, “The success of The UWI is the basis of this very special opportunity and is therefore a tribute to my colleagues who have been in the engine room doing what many have said is impossible: building a global elite university in a region suffering from systemic economic decline to serve as a beacon of hope for our people increasingly driven into a mentality of doubt with growing despair.”

Ranked among the top universities in the world, by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. In 2020, it earned ‘Triple 1st’ rankings—topping the Caribbean; and in the top in the tables for Latin America and the Caribbean, and global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the top universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

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