UTech working to fix accreditation woes
Vowing to make a mark and be remembered as someone who dealt with substance, the new president of the University of Technology (UTech), Professor Stephen Vasciannie, has moved swiftly to address one of the big problems affecting the university - and one which has earned the ire of some graduates. The fact that many courses offered by the university have not been accredited by the national accreditation body, the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ).
With former acting president Professor Colin Gyles having disclosed late last year that some 60 courses there were still without the UCJ stamp of approval, Professor Vasciannie, who took up the UTech leadership on January 2, presided over the submission in late January of a formal application to the UCJ to have the near 60-year-old university granted institutional accreditation to cover all courses it offers.
"We have prepared and submitted a self-study. The self study has been reviewed by the UCJ in a preliminary way," Professor Vasciannie told The Gleaner in one of his first interviews as the new UTech administrative and academic head.
"They (UCJ) have made certain comments and we are in the process now of revising the self-assessment with a view to representing in full. The UCJ has certain standards and so our response will be in respect of each of those standards."
SOURCE OF EMBARRASSMENT
Professor Vasciannie pointed out that efforts to deal with the question of accreditation were in train before the start of his presidency. However, it has not escaped him that the submission of the self study is a major first step in dealing with the age-old problem. The non-accreditation of some courses it offers has been a source of embarrassment for UTech and some of its graduates.
As recently as Thursday, March 30, a media report highlighted the anger of a group of teachers who studied at UTech. They complained that with their unaccredited Bachelor of Education in Industrial Technology degree from the university, they are being paid low salaries as pre-trained teachers.
Professor Vasciannie would not be drawn on what has held up the process for so long but disclosed that more than 40 programmes currently offered by UTech are accredited.
"Why do we not have all of them accredited or why hasn't it (institutional accreditation) happened before? It is difficult to say because I wasn't in on the decision-making processes related to the pace at which we seek accreditation, but I have found a commitment to accreditation within the institution," he offered.
He explained that the current system allows for application for programme accreditation and UCJ approval only following the graduation of the first cohort for new courses of study.
With its new leadership tackling the thorny issue head-on, there is hope at UTech that the matter will be resolved by year-end. In the meantime, submissions continue to be made to the UCJ for more individual UTech programmes to receive accreditation.
Since January, there have been ongoing programme accreditation visits to the university even as UTech's administration and staff await UCJ evaluation visits in respect of the institutional accreditation bid.
... UCJ giving more focus to institutional accreditation
The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) has declined to comment on the specifics of the University of Technology's (UTech) application or a timeline for final consideration and action on institutional accreditation.
However, UCJ director of communication, Richard Rose, was quick to point out that institutional accreditation is a path that is now being encouraged by the council.
"The organisation is shifting from programmatic to institutional accreditation," Rose told The Gleaner of the new UCJ focus.
Documentation promoting the UCJ's 12th Annual Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education Week, which was observed March 6-10, 2017, noted the council's new thrust.
"As part of its continuing role in promoting institutional effectiveness through developing IQA (internal quality assurance) in institutions, the UCJ will be giving more focus to institutional accreditation," the UCJ attributed to its executive director, Althea Heron.
She added that "the UCJ's approach to both institutional and programme accreditation is consistent with good practice in other jurisdictions".