The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) is working to increase efficiency and turnaround times for the accreditation of programmes for educational institutions.
Since inception in 1987, some 300 programmes have been accredited by the UCJ, as at August 2013.
The main functions of the Council is to provide accreditation for degree and specialised programmes by establishing and applying criteria for the accreditation of tertiary level courses of study. It also registers institutions that have met minimum tertiary educational standards.
Speaking at the Jamaica Information Service Think Tank held on Tuesday, September 10, at the agency’s Half-Way-Tree Road headquarters in Kingston, Director of Accreditation, at the UCJ, Grace Gordon assured that measures are being put in place to ensure that programmes are “properly developed” by institutions before they are submitted for accreditation.
In order for a programme to be evaluated and accredited, she said it must have its first cohort of graduates. “What we are saying to institutions is that you must be ready to submit for accreditation at that point, so that when the programme is evaluated it covers those first set of graduates,” she added.
She noted that some institutions have been graduating cohorts of students although they (the institutions) are not ready to submit for accreditation. “We are putting in place measures to prevent that from happening,” she said.
She explained that if someone graduates from a programme before it is accredited, then a letter could be issued by the UCJ to state that the programme is equivalent to an accredited one. “That letter is recognised internationally,” she added.
Furthermore Miss Gordon said that if additional courses were added to the programme before it is accredited, then persons have the option of completing the additional work in order to receive a certificate, indicating that he or she has completed the accredited programme.
“So situations are examined on an individual basis and where measures can be taken to help the student, they are taken but accreditation is not retroactive,” she emphasised.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the UCJ, Dr. Yvonnette Marshall said additional staff is needed at the Council to deal with the expansion of the education sector.
“One of the challenges is really to have enough staff so that the turnaround time from submission to decision is minimised, so it is very important for institutions to get feedback in a timely manner because it does affect their operations,” she said.
Another challenge, she noted, is the lack of sufficient physical space at the UCJ, which must be addressed. “So even if we got additional staff now, we would not have anywhere to accommodate them, we would have to get very creative, in terms of how we would accommodate the additional staff,” she said.