Fri | Nov 24, 2017

UCC to sell franchises, list spin-off company on JSE

Published:Friday | August 25, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
Dr Winston Adams, executive chairman of the UCC Group.

The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, the UCC Group, has hired consultants to develop a franchising structure that the institution will use to grow throughout the region.

At the same time, UCC is finalising plans to list one of its wholly owned subsidiaries, UCC Online Limited, an arrangement being led by financial advisory firm Mayberry Investments Limited, according to UCC Group Chairman Dr Winston Adams.

UCC Online operated as a division of the private university, but has been spun off as a company in readiness to go public. Adams expects the initial public offering to be finalised in time for the company to list on the junior market by year end.

It would make UCC the only education outfit ever to go after capital on the stock market.

"We are revamping our accounting and financial reporting systems to accommodate the stringent requirements of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, prior to listing UCC Online on the junior stock exchange," said Adams.

"We anticipate that we will list the company in the last quarter of 2017. The legal work to separate the division into a legal entity is almost complete. Mayberry Investments is the official broker," he told the Financial Gleaner.

More course offerings

As it prepares for the listing, UCC continues to develop more course offerings and has hired international consultancy iFranchise to structure a programme under which it will sell the rights to its courses to educational institutions in targeted markets.

The university expects to grow its number of programmes at the undergraduate and graduate levels to 50 by next January. The franchises will be sold by the group, but UCC Online will be offered to licensees as a "delivery modality," Adams noted.

UCC is described by state marketing agency Jampro as the largest privately owned tertiary training institution in the Caribbean. From its main campus at Worthington Avenue in New Kingston, the school operates branches in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Turks & Caicos.

Adams said he hired iFranchise, a Chicago-based consultancy, to prepare UCC to sell franchises across the English-speaking Caribbean as well as the Commonwealth.

"We believe there is a large untapped market in the six million-plus population of the English Caribbean alone," said Adams.

"We already have online students in several of these territories, and as such, the UCC brand will be already known in these countries. The value of investment to date is about US$100,000," the UCC chairman said.

Through three partnerships - Coursera, Udemy & edX - UCC also facilitates open access courses that are delivered free online, referred to as 'MOOCs'. The MOOC courses are free, but those who want certification must pay a US$49 fee to sit the exams.

The university is also approved by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in Jamaica and the Caribbean and is a recognised institution by the University of London, Adams said.

UCC has been operating as a university college for 12 years and currently serves more than 4,000 students annually in Jamaica and the eastern Caribbean. The school resulted from the merger of the Institute of Management Sciences and the Institute of Management and Production. It's internationally accredited by the Accreditation Service for International Colleges & Universities, based in the United Kingdom.

Earlier this year, Adams rebranded the institution from University College of the Caribbean to University of the Commonwealth Caribbean.

The UCC Group includes nine subsidiaries or affiliates - Global Knowledge Processing Solutions Inc, a fully owned business process/knowledge process outsourcing company; fully owned technical/vocational arm, UCC Academy; animation and graphics company iCreate Institute, 20 per cent ownership; a 25 per cent stake in a planned public-private partnership with the government of Guyana for the fourth Caribbean Law School in Guyana and Jamaica; UCC Online; UCC Foundation US Inc; a fully owned UCC University Town & Global Campus to be developed at Mammee Bay in St Ann; wholly owned UCC International Franchising; and wholly owned UCC Export Development.

The university town is to be developed by China Harbour Engineering Company on lands that UCC is now attempting to acquire from the Urban Development Corporation at Mammee Bay. The projected cost is US$10 million.

"This will include centres of excellence for hospitality management and will also be UCC's premiere north coast campus," Adams said. "We are currently negotiating with the Urban Development Corporation for the site which is in St Ann," he said.

UCC Group has also partnered with new cable company ReadyTV for a university cable channel.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com