In its more than 60 years of existence, UWI has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 45,000 students, approximately 9,000 graduates annually, and more than 120,000 alumni. The impressive network of UWI Alumni includes one Nobel Laureate, dozens of Rhodes Scholars, and more than 18 current and former Caribbean Prime Ministers and Heads of State. In addition to the main campus in Jamaica, UWI also has campuses in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, as well as centers in an additional 13 countries, positioning UWI as a leader in the region.

UWI established the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) in 2006 to assist Caribbean nations in addressing these challenges. The ISD comprises the Centre for Policy Studies in Sustainable Development, the Environmental Management Unit, the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, and the Unit in Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality. ISD also hosts the International Secretariat of the University Consortium for Small Island States (UCSIS), and the Violence Prevention Alliance. The Coordinator of ISD facilitates collaborative research, teaching, and outreach activities among the entities within the ISD. The ISD supports or is affiliated with several regional and international institutions, including the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Pan American Health Organization, and the United Nations Environment Programme.