Role of the new tertiary regulator
The new Jamaica Tertiary Education and Research Commission (JTEC) announced last week will have oversight of a ballooning number of schools at the college and university level, last numbered at 51.
JTEC supersedes entities such as University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) and the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), the education ministry's Tertiary Unit, among others.
It will cut out "serious duplication of responsibilities," said communications director at the Ministry of Education, Colin Blair.
It should also address the lack of resources and resulting constraints in programme implementation experienced by some of the organisations that JTEC replaces.
A SWOT analysis of the CCCJ, posted on its website, cites "a lack of adequate funding; lack of a dedicated public relations and marketing plan; lack of proper data collecting mechanism; inadequate staffing; low compensation scales; also a lack of dedicated office space that is owned."
The CCCJ, a statutory agency, oversees eight colleges which offer programmes ranging from the associate degree programmes, pre-university courses, franchise programmes in collaboration with the University of the West Indies and University of Technology, as well as a number of continuing education courses.
There are also plans to add HEART Trust/NTA and NCTVET institutions to the network as fee-paying colleges.
But, JTEC should also address the needs of a rapidly expanding sector. The UCJ itself currently monitors 195 programmes which it has accredited in 46 institutions, including 22 programmes offered by 10 overseas institutions - representing an enrolment of more than 50,000 students.
JTEC was created on the recommendation of the national education task force that a commission be established to provide "oversight" of the tertiary sector.
While giving no costing on the savings from such a move, the education ministry said, "The benefits of creating one body with reach and clout are myriad, including reduced duplication and improved efficiencies.
"The JTEC will be a knowledge broker for Jamaican tertiary education," said the ministry.
"It will perform a supervisory and managerial role for the sector, as opposed to individual institutions."
The ministry also indicated that the strategic planning process undertaken for JTEC was "highly participatory".
Initiated in December 2004 with a National Stakeholder Consultation, the talks involved representatives from tertiary institutions, businesses, government and government institutions, and students.