News Releases

UWI Vice-Chancellor Demits Office in 2015

For Release Upon Receipt - May 14, 2014


UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica – Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Professor E. Nigel Harris, has announced that he will demit office in April 2015. At that time, he would have served for 10 years as Vice-Chancellor, a time he believes appropriate to serve as senior administrator of an organisation such as The UWI.  

Professor Harris sees the last decade as a journey of growth and transformation for The UWI.  The university’s enrolment has more than doubled, reaching approximately 50,000 – large by any global measure.  This has been accompanied by growth in the number of students achieving both undergraduate and graduate degrees – a total of 9,000 to 10,000 annually.  Applications have also doubled to approximately 30,000 annually and about half of these are admitted.  This growth has been supported by the expansion of physical facilities on all campuses - in excess of 500,000 square feet, and exponential growth in ICT support and electronic library resources. Revenues have doubled largely due to growth in non-governmental institutional initiatives.  Heightened attentiveness to teaching quality and other quality assurance modalities have maintained high standards despite the growth in student numbers.  In addition, dozens of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have been introduced; many designed to meet workforce needs in the region and global workplace.   

He points especially to the launch of the Open Campus in 2008 which provides on-line degree and professional programmes to students anywhere in the Caribbean, with particular attention to UWI-14 countries, namely countries without residential campuses.  Enrolment in Open Campus degree programmes exceeds 6,000 students and it is anticipated that these numbers will grow exponentially with the introduction of video-streaming to create virtual classrooms.  The award of a multi-million dollar grant to the Open Campus from the Canadian Government makes the possibility of programme expansion by distance, a reality.   

The UWI has received more and larger research awards primarily from international funding agencies, several of which address regional issues such as marine studies, issues of sustainability in small island states, agriculture and food security, chronic non-communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, disaster risk reduction, bio-safety, renewable energy and other topics.  “Some of these grants”, Vice-Chancellor Harris said, “enabled The UWI to link with many regional and international universities – some 150 universities in 50 countries.  Particular attention will continue to be placed on areas of research that can contribute to regional development and on innovative research ideas that can be commercialised. The UWI has more than 25 patents; some of which can possibly be transformed into gainful industries.”  

There has also been an expansion in international linkages, especially with Latin America, Europe, China, Africa and India.  Visibility has grown as evidenced by the election of administrative and academic staff as well as student representatives to leadership posts in several international bodies.  In the last few years, both Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos have become members of The UWI family and its presence is being courted in countries like Haiti and San Andrés Island. Alumni engagement has significantly increased, with generous support from organisations such as the American Foundation for The UWI, the British Foundation for The UWI and the Canadian Gala Committee.   

The Vice-Chancellor notes that financial stability is a major challenge, bearing in mind this economically challenging time for Caribbean governments.  While university revenues have nearly doubled in the last decade, largely through the efforts of the campuses to grow non-governmental revenues, the economic travails of many contributing countries in the wake of the global economic collapse in 2008 has resulted in arrears in payment by regional Governments.  

In his last year at The UWI, Vice-Chancellor Harris plans to focus on the expansion of linkages with Community Colleges in the UWI-14 countries and with Teacher and other Colleges in Jamaica.    He plans to expand access to students in Tertiary Level Institutions which become linked to The UWI via on-line and video-streaming modalities within the context of the Open Campus/Single Virtual University Space. 


About Professor E. Nigel Harris

Professor Eon Nigel Harris is Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, assuming this office on October 1, 2004.

In addition to Vice-Chancellor of UWI, he is Chairman of the Caribbean Examination Council, (CXC) and was Chairman of the Council of the Caribbean Epidemiology Research Center (CAREC) until its incorporation into the Caribbean Regional Health Authority (CARPHA) two years ago..  After serving on the Executive Committee and as Deputy Chair, he was elected Chairman of the Association of Commonwealth Universities for a 2 year term (20113-2013; this is a Consortium of 530 universities in the Commonwealth which celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2013).  He was re-elected as President of the Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes (UNICA) in November 2012 after serving for two years in that Office and  is also a member of the Administrative Board of the International Association of Universities (a consortium of over 600 universities globally).

He is internationally known for his work as a Rheumatologist.  With Doctors Aziz Gharavi and Graham Hughes in London, he helped to define a disorder which they called the Antiphospholipid Syndrome and devised a diagnostic test (the anticardiolipin test) for it. For this work he shared with Dr Graham Hughes, Dr Aziz Gharavi and others, the Ciba-Geigy Prize awarded by the International League Against Rheumatism (ILAR) in 1990. He has published over 150 papers, editorials, reviews and chapters on this subject and these have been cited in over three thousand publications.  He launched the Antiphospholipid Standardisation Laboratory which led to worldwide efforts in standardisation of the anticardiolipin test and developed standards for the test that are often referred to as the “Harris Standards”.  For his contributions to the field of Rheumatology, he was made a Master of the American College of Rheumatology in October 2014.

Since coming to the University of the West Indies, he has focused on programmes that will enhance contributions of UWI to Caribbean Governments; strengthen services of the University to its stakeholders; broaden funding; and enhance alumni relations and marketing.  A particular area of interest has been re-structuring the UWI presence in the 12 Caribbean countries that contribute to UWI but have no campuses (he refers to them as the “UWI-12”).  This led to the creation of a virtual Open Campus designed to deliver education by distance to students in all parts  of the Caribbean who by reason of distance, personal circumstances or finances do not have access to any of  the three residential campuses(the residential campuses are in Jamaica(Mona), Trinidad and Tobago(St Augustine) and Barbados(cave Hill)) .  During his tenure the Regional University’s enrolment has grown from about 24,000 to nearly 50,000students.

Professor Harris was previously Dean and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, USA from 1996-2004.

He has received many honours and Awards, including the Centennial Award for contributions to Medicine by the National Medical Association (USA) in 1995, the Martin Luther King International Award received in Washington DC in 2010 and the Caribbean Health Research Council Award (2011) for contributions to medical research.  The country of his birth, Guyana, awarded him the Cacique Crown of Honour in 2011. In 2013, he received the Order of Merit Jose. Joaquin Gomez award from the University of Cartagena award from the University of Cartagena and in September an honorary Doctor of Law Degree from the University of St Andrews (Scotland) on the occasion of its 600th anniversary.

Professor Harris graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University (1968) with a degree in Chemistry and proceeded on a fellowship to Yale University, where he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Biochemistry (1973).  He earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1977). He then returned to the Caribbean where he completed his residency in internal medicine at The University of the West Indies at Mona and was awarded the post-graduate degree, Doctor of Medicine (DM) in 1981. In 1983, he went to the Royal Postgraduate School of Medicine (Hammersmith Hospital) where he completed a Fellowship in Rheumatology.

He is married to Dr C. Yvette Williams-Harris, a general internist and they have three children.

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website:

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.) 


  • Office of the Vice-Chancellor The University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters

  • Tel.: 876-927-1600-9 Exts. 2336/2339
  • Email: