Did You Know?!: The Story of the University’s Charters

The University of the West Indies received three Royal Charters throughout its lifetime. The Third Royal Charter, issued to the University in 1972, is the one now used to establish the institution’s status as a corporate entity.

UWI Royal Charter, 1972

Royal Charter of the UWI, 1972

The First Royal Charter was issued on 5 January, 1949. It probably lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean as the “Star Ariel“, the aircraft transporting it to Jamaica, disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. The Principal, Sir Thomas Taylor, noted at the University Council meeting on February 1950 that it was “only through personal intervention of the Chancellor, HRH Princess Alice, that the technical difficulties arising out of the loss of the Charter had been overcome” and Letters Patent were issued in its place.

The Second Royal Charter (which is now in the University Library, Mona) constituting and founding the University of the West Indies as an independent entity was granted on 2 April, 1962.

The Third Royal Charter  became effective on 25 August, 1972. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Roy Marshall, in his 1973 Report to Council stated that the Charter and Statutes were revised to provide a “better framework within which the Academic and Administrative structure of the University could be organised to meet the problems arising from its multi-campus situation”. The revised Charter has twenty-five (25) sections while the 1962 version has twenty-two (22).

The Charter bears the grand seal and is signed “Dobson”, who was Sir Denis Dobson, Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. It is of interest to note that “by custom, dating back to the 15th century, the Clerk of the Crown subscribes his name to formal documents, in the same style as if he were a peer, that is with the surname only”.

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