Historic Agreement sealed with The University of the West Indies

Issued: Fri, 23 Aug 2019 14:51:00 BST

An historic Memorandum of Understanding that will see the University of Glasgow and The University of the West Indies working together in the foundation of a Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research was signed at an event held at the University of Glasgow’s Memorial Chapel on Friday 23 August 2019.

The Centre, co-located in Glasgow and the Caribbean, will host events and activities, sponsor research work, coordinate academic collaborations with other universities, and help to stimulate public awareness about the history of slavery and its impact around the world.

Both institutions have committed to raising and spending around £20 million over the next 20 years. The bulk of the funding will come from research grants and benefactions, with the Centre expected to be self-supporting and long lasting.

The MOU, first signed at an event in Jamaica in July, is one of a series of recommendations that emerged from the University’s report on Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow which was published in September 2018.  The Glasgow event saw the document co-signed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli and Sir Hilary Beckles, the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

 Sir Anton said ‘We are delighted to sign this truly historic Memorandum of Understanding with The University of West Indies. It is fitting that we do so on the UNESCO day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade. I am reminded of the words of Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, one of our report’s external advisers who often says while you can’t change the past, you can change their consequences. This is the story of our journey to do this to further enhance awareness and understanding of our history and the University’s connections to both historical slavery and the abolitionist movement.”

In response Sir Hilary said, “We are delighted to sign this agreement and look forward to working with the University of Glasgow and to making the Centre for Development Research a significant, successful and long lasting partnership. Glasgow and The University of the West Indies are setting out not only to be excellent but to be ethical. This is a great moral moment."

UWI MOU

As well as signing the MOU, a plaque was unveiled to mark the fact that when the University moved to its present site it was built over a property owned by an 18th century slaveowner. 

As part of the ceremony Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay recited a poem which was specifically commissioned for the day.

The event also saw the opening of an exhibition “Call and response: The University of Glasgow and slavery” in the University chapel.

The exhibition, which is open to the public, features photographs and stories of a selection of objects to explore the often unknown and unexpected ways in which some items within the University’s collections are related to the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement. A range of people connected to the university were asked to give their response to an object and its history.