Since 2016 when the management of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) took the strategic decision to prepare and position the institution for global competitive rankings, its performance results have been steadily progressive. The choice to engage the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking system was based on its standing as the most reputable and independently quality assured. Its annual rankings have become a standard measuring tool in the comparative performances of the best global universities.
The ranking results for 2022, released by the THE in early September 2021 show that The UWI has soared within the scales, moving up a very impressive 94 places. From the global field of some 30,000 universities and elite research institutes, The UWI now stands in the top 1.5%, up from 3% in the prior year.
“This is a spectacular performance,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles noted. “While we have maintained our number one position in the Caribbean, and top 1% of the best in Latin America and the Caribbean, the surge to the top 1.5% in the world gives us a considerable degree of professional satisfaction as a management and leadership team,” Sir Hilary added. “The top global tier is where we set out to position our university and we have reached there,” he concluded.
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Strategic Planning, and Principal of the Five Islands Campus, Professor Densil A. Williams, who has guided the global ranking engagement noted that, “the impressive performance of the university is rooted in the work of Faculties and Research Institutes. Campus principals and their leadership teams along with faculty and staff should also be commended for embracing the vision embedded in the Triple A Strategic Plan which laid the foundation for this ranking engagement since 2018.”
In the current World University rankings, only 1,668 universities from 99 countries satisfied the eligibility criteria of the THE. This is up from 1,500 across 93 countries last year. The UWI rising is therefore within the context of a significantly expanded field of participants, which makes the performance even more impressive.
Number of Qualified Universities by Region [Source: 2022 THE World University Rankings].
Western Europe 415
East Asia, Pacific 404
East Europe, Central Asia 236
North America 215
Middle East, North Africa 150
Latin America 124
South Asia 100
Sub-Saharan Africa 10
West Africa 9
East Africa 4
These 1,668 elite universities are ranked under five pillars of excellence:  teaching and learning;  research;  scholarly and professional citations;  industry income; and  international outlook and participation. Results are validated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The UWI’s robust comparative performance was driven by improved results in teaching and learning, research and professional citations, and global outlook and participation. This result places The UWI alongside the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. It also locates The UWI in the elite band of BRICS universities in Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa with 3.2 billion people compared to the 6.2 million in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Areas of concern which are red flagged, and identified for improvement remain constant—insufficient private sector investment in research, and volatility in government funding that raises questions with respect to the enterprise’s financial sustainability. These areas are placed at the centre of strategic planning for the next five-year period.
In general, these results are particularly satisfying to management given the headwinds faced by the university in recent years, resulting from escalating regional fiscal challenges, economic impact of hurricanes, and financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the stellar leadership of Vice-Chancellor Beckles, management remained steadfast and unflinching in its effort to deliver high quality services to students and other stakeholders. While participating in public discourses about the specific roles and relevance of the university, management maintained its focus on the objective of delivering measurable performance outcomes that will enhance the development of the region.