The University Council of Jamaica was established by an Act of Parliament in 1987 as the national quality assurance body for tertiary education, to ensure quality through the adoption and improvement of educational standards. The UCJ is a statutory body currently under the portfolio of the Minister of Education, Youth and Information.
Since its inception, Dr Ethley London (October 1987- April 2011), Dr Yvonnette Marshall (April 2011- August 2016) and Mrs Althea Heron (November 2016- present) have served as Executive Directors.
The UCJ has assisted many tertiary institutions to develop and adopt a quality assurance culture. It has also assisted two Colleges in their attainment of university status. The Council primarily registers institutions accredits programmes/institutions.
Given its developmental role, which is to guide institutions along the path of continuous improvement and development, the UCJ continues to monitor all registered institutions and accredited programmes. The purpose of monitoring is to continuously promote and encourage the development of a quality culture in tertiary education in Jamaica. In its evaluation of institutions and programmes of study, the UCJ currently gives great attention to the institution’s development of its Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) mechanism.
The milestones over the years have included:
- 1991 – First registered institution
- 1991 – First locally accredited programme
- 1991 – Establishment of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE)
- 1992 – Publication of the first Directory of Jamaican Tertiary Institutions
- 1995 – First overseas accredited programme
- 1995 – First UCJ-Approved Degree
- 1997 – Establishment of the first Board of Studies, later renamed Standards Development Committees
- 1997 – Establishment of the Credit Transfer Committee, later renamed the Tertiary Articulation Committee
- 2000 – Publication of the first set of standards developed by a Board of Studies (now Standards Development Committees)
- 2003 – Launch of the Tertiary Qualifications Framework
- 2004 – Launch of Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education Week
- 2004 – Launch of the Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE)
- 2006 – Launch of the Guidelines for the Accreditation of Short Courses
- 2007 – Launch of the Dennis Irvine Lecture Series
- 2007 – 20th Anniversary Celebrations
- 2012 – 25th Anniversary Celebrations
- 2012 – Launch of Teacher Education Standards
- 2012 – First grant of Institutional Accreditation
- 2014– Launch of Distance Education Standards
- 2015 – Launch of Standards for Guidance and Counselling
- 2016 – Revamping of the Tertiary Articulation Committee to the Technical Advisory Committee
The UCJ has not only been responsible for the growth and development of Quality Assurance (QA) in tertiary education in Jamaica, but is the first External Quality Assurance (EQA) agency to have been established in the Caribbean, and has had significant impact on the development of other agencies and the promotion of QA in tertiary education within the region. The UCJ was also a significant partner and leader in the establishment of the Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE). The UCJ has conducted seminars and workshops for partners in the region, and representatives from other CARICOM countries have visited Jamaica for attachment programmes at the UCJ.
The UCJ has been represented on the governing Board of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). Former Executive Directors, Dr Ethley London and Dr Yvonnette Marshall have served on the INQAAHE board.
The UCJ continues to hold membership in both CANQATE and INQAAHE.