September 27, 2022

The UWI’s University Council rules on Byron Report

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The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. W.I. Monday, March 7, 2022. — The Council of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) met on Friday, March 4, 2022, for its final deliberation on the Chancellor’s Report on Governance after near two years of consultations. 

It received the report of its Review Committee, which was led by University Registrar, Dr. Maurice D. Smith.  That Committee, appointed by Council, had been tasked with critically assessing the recommendations from the Report of the Chancellor’s Commission on Governance chaired by Sir Dennis Byron, and to make further recommendations, taking into consideration the contributions of stakeholders such as Staff Unions and Student Guilds.    

The Council applauded the Review Committee for executing a complex task well, and after much discussion, unanimously accepted its recommendations.  

The Review Committee noted that there were no specific objections to 92 of the 95 recommendations in the Byron Report as the University Community had broadly accepted them. The Committee also recognised that most of the recommendations were at various degrees of development or implementation within the context of the University’s Strategic Plan. Strengthening and enhancement of business operations in the areas of enterprise risk management, financial assessment of big projects, general monitoring and auditing of planned outcomes, whistle blowing, and globalization initiatives were some that were identified.

There were, however, a core of critical recommendations from the Byron Report that did not meet with support from the Review Committee nor the Council and as such was rejected: 

  • The Byron Report had recommended that the University adopts a new financial model which would result in a 100% increase in student fees—a move from the present circumstance of students paying tuition fees equivalent to 20% of the costs of academic programmes, to 40%. This would pose an existential threat to the University, Caribbean society, and economy. The Review Committee described this recommendation as being outside the terms of reference of the Byron Commission, and residing in the domain of Governments constituted as the University Grants Committee.
  • Another recommendation was that the University Finance and General Purposes Committee (U-F&GPC), chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and Campus F&GPCs, chaired by Principals be abolished and replaced by executive committees, chaired by the Chancellor or his nominee. In the deliberations on this, Council heard that the U-F&GPC was generally perceived as the ‘parliament’ of the regional university, allowing all stakeholders—students, Faculty, governments, private sector, alumni, civil society—to shape and determine management strategies, academic outcomes and performances, strategic planning, budgetary frameworks, and the academic culture of the institution. Described as the core of the University’s management which reports to Council from which it takes policy directives; Council was advised that the abolition of the U-F&GPC would impair the capacity of the Vice-Chancellor and his executive management team to maintain the regional character of the University. Its abolishment, it was proffered, would weaken the implementation of a ‘ONE UWI’ vision and mandate as embedded in the Treaty of Chaguaramas. The replacement of the U-F&GPC by executive sub-committees was considered a destabilisation of the democratic, inclusionary, and diverse intellectual character of the academic institution. 

Council accepted the view of the Review Committee that care should be taken to clarify any policy intent to invest executive power and management authority in the Chancellor.  In so doing, Council ruled to maintain the status quo that the Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principals maintain executive and management authority. Council, therefore, reaffirmed the global best practice long-embedded in The UWI’s regulatory framework that the Chancellor is responsible for oversight governance and the Vice-Chancellor for institutional leadership and executive management, with a clear separation of powers and no conflation of the two distinct functions.

In closing the discourse, Council called upon the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the University Registrar to nominate for its approval an Implementation Committee, as is the custom, to give oversight and secure the effective and efficient implementation of the approved recommendations.

The Vice-Chancellor thanked the Council for its patience in ensuring that the stakeholders were allowed to have their voices heard and that the recommendations were risk assessed, and commented upon. He also commended the Council for its wisdom in unanimously accepting the Review Committee’s recommendations. The decisions will contribute to a more fit-for-purpose 21st century UWI that is respected, resilient, and sustainable, the Vice-Chancellor concluded.

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