Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Colin Gyles | UTech and accreditation – setting the record straight

Published:Sunday | November 6, 2016 | 11:00 AM
Colin Gyles
A supervised team of volunteer dental students from the University of Technology's College of Oral Health Sciences provide cleaning and extractions to some 150 residents from the surrounding communities.
The entrance to the University of Technology, Jamaica.
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In the interest of truth, I am compelled to respond to a report in The Gleaner dated November 4, 2016 in a series, 'Fixing UTech', titled

'60 courses at UTech not accredited'.

I refer to the 2009-2010 annual report of the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) that shows that up to March 2010, UTech, Jamaica, was the most prolific tertiary institution in the island in terms of the number of courses accredited, having 31 accredited courses listed in that report. Northern Caribbean University was next with 24. That situation has not changed, as the 2015-2016 UCJ annual report lists UTech, Jamaica, as having 40 courses accredited, the most for any tertiary institution in Jamaica as at March 2016.

In describing the status of accreditation of institutions, in the 2009-2010 annual report, the then executive director of the UCJ, Dr Ethley London, had this to say: "For almost 20 years, the UCJ has provided quality-assurance service to Jamaican tertiary education through programmatic accreditation, but now finds it useful to proceed towards institutional accreditation for the more mature institutions. This will assist in preventing duplication of efforts by institutions, especially those with many accredited programmes. These institutions would have, over the years, improved their internal quality-assurance mechanisms and, therefore, should be ready for the process of institutional reviews."

Based on Dr London's statement, UTech, Jamaica, would have been first in line to be considered for institutional accreditation. Up to that time, UWI, Mona, did not have any course accredited by the UCJ. It was only listed as one of the many registered institutions. That was the extent of its involvement with the UCJ, so far as accreditation went. But then, things changed.

There was a change of administration at the UCJ, and within a short while, UWI, Mona, was facilitated for assessment for institutional accreditation, while UTech, Jamaica, was being told that the standards for institutional accreditation were not yet ready.

Indeed, the document that was later published by the UCJ, titled 'Standards for Institutional Accreditation' has in its reference a document dated May 2011, which means that as late as May 2011, the institutional accreditation standards document had not been completed, but an assessment was done of the UWI, Mona, and institutional accreditation was granted effective February 1, 2012.

 

MIXED MESSAGES

 

Meanwhile, the earlier position of the UCJ regarding institutions such as UTech, Jamaica, that had "many accredited programmes" was changed and UTech, Jamaica, was being told, as late as earlier this year, 2016, that it should not seek institutional accreditation. But suddenly, since February 2012, pronouncements started being made that there was only one accredited institution in Jamaica and that students should only enrol in accredited programmes. What was that intended to achieve and who was behind it?

For an institution such as UTech, Jamaica, that has been, and continues to be, the most diligent and consistent institution in Jamaica in pursuing accreditation of its courses, having repeated the process more than 40 times successfully, over a period of more than 20 years, but which, based on its size and complexity, has, perhaps, another 60 courses yet to be submitted, what is the message being sent to our people?

As I pointed out at the recent ceremony to install our new pro-chancellor, Richard Powell, "UTech, Jamaica, seeks institutional accreditation as a part of our mandate". This will provide recognition for all courses offered by UTech, Jamaica, as was afforded to UWI, Mona. That process is now far advanced and is expected to be fully realised by early 2017.

I am pleased to note that the new administration at the UCJ has expressed support for this thrust, not only for an institution such as UTech, Jamaica, but for other local institutions that have similarly pursued programme accreditation over the years and have similarly been hurt by a negative perception that came about in more recent times, coinciding with the granting of institutional accreditation to UWI, Mona.

As the only university that has been established by an act of the Jamaican Parliament, UTech, Jamaica, continues to support national development and remains true to the national anthem, which says: "Justice, truth be ours forever, Jamaica, Land we love."

UTech, Jamaica, continues to produce high-quality graduates who are in demand and who continue to make their mark locally and overseas. UTech, Jamaica's, focused interaction with the UCJ towards institutional accreditation will, very soon, provide further verification of its success as a Jamaican institution of excellence.

- Professor Colin Gyles is acting president of the University of Technology, Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.