UTech deputy president beating his gums
If he's not careful, Professor Colin Gyles, deputy president of the University of Technology (UTech), will soon need the services of a graduate of an accredited dental degree programme. He's just beating his gums in response to my column published last Sunday, 'University fi stone dog in the UK?'
There, I state the truth: "UTech hasn't even applied for accreditation of its dental programme! And the first graduates are about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world." In his evasive column, 'Carolyn Cooper and the UWI cartel', published last Tuesday, Professor Gyles takes almost 800 words to avoid addressing the issue of accreditation.
Instead, he puts some rather smelly red herrings on the table, hoping, I suppose, to distract readers from the meat of the matter. Professor Gyles says he's a graduate of the University of the West Indies. That's irrelevant. Then he makes a nonsensical claim: "It should be evident that any criticism of UTech's capacity to deliver quality education is a criticism of the institutions from which those experts got their training."
Perhaps it should be evident. But it is not. Accreditation of a university's academic programmes - the primary issue here - is not solely dependent on the qualifications of those who are offering training. And, in any case, I was not criticising UTech's capacity. The quality of actual delivery may be quite different from capacity.
What Professor Gyles fails to admit is that UTech is not accredited by The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). As stated on its website, CAAM-HP "is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programmes of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM".
Furthermore, the website states that "CAAM-HP will serve as the means of providing the assurance of quality that generates confidence in the principal stakeholders, students and the public".
When I checked with the local office of CAAM-HP two Fridays ago, I was informed that several attempts have been made to get UTech to begin the accreditation process. With no success.
Apparently resisting local/regional review, UTech has turned to the US-based Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA) to legitimise its academic programme. In his response to my column, Professor Gyles states, "UTech's dental programme is recognised by the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA), which assesses and approves dentists to practise in the United States and Canada. The CDCA is described as being like the GOLD standard for dental competency assessment.
"It is of note that UTech's College of Oral Health Sciences became the first institution outside of North America to be approved by the CDCA. The current final-year cohort of students from UTech's dentistry programme will be sitting the CDCA examinations in less than a month."
What, exactly, does CDCA recognition and approval mean? Nothing much, it would appear. Last Tuesday, I spoke to Dr Ellis Hall, director of examinations at the CDCA. He immediately confirmed that the commission is not an accrediting body. It administers exams. That's it.
Professor Gyles argues that because UTech dental students are about to take the CDCA exams, "It, therefore, gives a completely false impression of the quality of the cohort of students who will shortly graduate from the programme as fully trained and qualified dentists for them to be described as 'about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world'."
The UTech graduates may very well be "fully trained and qualified dentists". But this is another red herring. How many of us would suspect that the UTech dental degree programme is not accredited? Try as he might, Professor Gyles cannot deny the fact that UTech is pressing along with its dental programme, with no regard for the CARICOM accreditation requirements.
As for the platitude that "we cannot become so fiercely competitive that we tear each other apart and undermine the collective strength that we could muster in order to bolster our own collective survival and competitiveness in the wider world", Professor Gyles clearly didn't see my statement that we need more than one university in Kingston. The issue is not competition; it's competitive advantage.
'SOME KIND OF POLYTECHNIC'
Surprisingly, Professor Gyles doesn't seem to appreciate the value of polytechnic education. He dismissively states, "The impression being given that UTech is some kind of polytechnic that simply tries to duplicate the offerings of traditional universities such as UWI is not true." The College of Arts, Science and Technology was a polytechnic that did an excellent job of providing professional education. CAST graduates easily found jobs for which their UWI counterparts were unqualified.
And it is true that some foolish administrators at UWI turned up their noses at academic programmes they considered beneath them. Like sports. Now, the university is desperately trying to catch up in some of these fields. But the solution to the problem of shortsightedness is not duplication of effort.
The administrators of both UTech and UWI need to sit down and talk about how the limited resources of both the nation and the region can be used to full advantage. Ensuring that all academic programmes are accredited is the first step.