The Accreditation Process
To be eligible for programme accreditation, institutions must first seek registration with the UCJ. The aim of registration is to certify that an institution meets certain minimum operating standards required for the conduct of a tertiary institution in Jamaica.
Registration provides an institution with the opportunity to establish a formal, publicly recognized relationship with the UCJ. Registration therefore is a pre-accreditation status. The criteria for registration are closely related to the criteria for accreditation since they are meant to provide registered institutions with a foundation for logical development towards accreditation.
The following are the steps required in seeking accreditation for programmes:
1. The Application & Self Study
- A registered institution seeking UCJ's accreditation of its programmes must make application to the UCJ and conduct a self-study. The self-study is a thorough evaluation through which an institution formally examines itself, assesses its strengths and weaknesses, and plans how to capitalize on those strengths and to improve on the areas of weaknesses. Careful self-evaluation is crucial to any institution's effectiveness. The self-study is therefore intended to assist in institutional planning and development.
- The institution submits the completed application form detailing the programme's philosophy and structure; method of assessment; learning resources; staffing; admission requirements and selection procedures; analysis of intake and destination of graduates. This is accompanied by (i) required supplementary information such as syllabuses, examination papers, booklists, timetable and samples projects; and (ii) the institutional self-study.
2. Processing by the UCJ
- The Council reviews the material supplied by the institution to verify completeness of application submissions to determine if the institution is a candidate for accreditation.
- The Council then communicates with the institution on an appropriate date for a site visit. Care is taken to ensure that the date is convenient to all parties involved.
3. Team Selection
- The Council selects a team of professionals who will visit the institution and evaluate the programme. The evaluation team is usually drawn from professional educators and practicing professionals chosen for competence in fields relevant to the programme being evaluated.
- The institution is notified of the composition of the team in order to minimize conflict of interest. While the Council reserves the right to make the final choice, the institution is invited to inform the Council of any concerns or reservations it may have about any member of the team.
4. The Site Visit
- The evaluation team conducts a visit to the institution. The visit is comprised of (i) a series of interviews with administration, faculty, students, graduates and employers of graduates from the programme, and any other relevant stakeholders (ii) an examination of the institution's facilities: lecture rooms, library, laboratories, computer facilities, recreational provisions, etc. The team may also observe classes' in-session.
- Once the composition of the team has been finished, the members are thoroughly briefed and assigned specific tasks.
5. The Evaluation Report and Institutional Response
- The evaluation team prepares a report on the visit, which provides a summary of strengths and weaknesses and offers advice, suggestions and recommendations to the institution.
- A copy of the report is sent to the Principal/President of the institution who is invited to submit to the UCJ a written response to the comments and recommendations.
6. The Review
- The team's report and the institution's response are reviewed by the UCJ's Accreditation, Curriculum and Development Committee, a sub-committee of the Council, which makes recommendations regarding accreditation to the Council.
7. The Decision
- The Council makes the final decision at its next sitting. The institution is informed of this decision by letter, stating the conditions for accreditation.
Preparing For Accreditation
1. Site Visit
Once the Council's processing of the institution's application has been completed, the machinery is put in place to affect the site visit.
2. Setting the date
On the day of the site visit the institution must be able to give its undivided attention to the demands that the team will make of the institution. The institution therefore needs to give careful thought to the proposed date before making a firm commitment.
Institutions should therefore ensure that:
- There is no other scheduled campus activity, nor is there in progress preparation for any upcoming event (e.g. Board meeting, graduation, professional meeting) which will compete with the visit for the attention of the administration and staff
- The relevant faculty and administration are available for the duration of time needed.
- Students are in classes so that classes in progress may be observed.
- A sufficient number of students, and staff are available to ensure a reasonable selection for the required interviews.
3. Selection of interview groups
The site visit will be comprised of a number of interviews with representatives drawn from the following groups: administration, faculty, students, graduates and employers of graduates.
A major source of information on which the team will base its judgement is the information that is gleaned from these interviews. Institutions should therefore ensure that individuals who comprise the groups can give accurate and comprehensive information in response to the questions/issues raised by the evaluating team. Each group should be as broad-based as possible to facilitate a wide range of responses to the questions posed by the visiting team.
Institutions should therefore, as much as possible and as appropriate, take the following factors into consideration when determining the composition of the groups to be interviewed:
a) Representatives from the policymaking body and senior administrative staff should be able to respond to issues relating to ;
- Developmental plans;
- Admission policies and trends;
- Programme development and review;
- Staff recruitment and supervision;
- Student assessment and student performance;
- Quality assurance issues.
b) Selection of faculty, students and graduates should be representative of a cross section of the relevant group and should be drawn from:
- Full-time/part-time lecturers from a cross-section of courses;
- Staff with varying lengths of service.
- Different year groups;
- Educational background and prior qualifications which exemplify the various entry requirements;
- Day/evening programmes;
- Full-time/part-time enrollment.
- A range of graduation years;
- Graduates from full-time/part-time programmes;
- A range of employment settings.
c) Employers of graduates invited to meet with the evaluation team should represent a diversity of services offered in order to give the team a sense of how well the graduates are meeting the varying needs of the job market.
4. Meeting room for the visiting team
The visiting team needs to be highly focused on the proceedings of the visit if it is to make sound judgements of the programme. One way that the institution can facilitate this is to ensure that the designated meeting room is as comfortable as possible with minimum distractions.
Ensure therefore that the meeting room is:
- Properly ventilated and with adequate lighting;
- Of adequate size to easily accommodate all participants;
- Away from potentially distracting activities;
- Suitably furnished for reasonable comfort.
5. Selection of the visiting team
Team members must:
a. have appropriate academic credentials;
b. bring to the team relevant academic and professional experienece;
c. have an understanding of the context in which programmes and services in question must fit;
d. have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the UCJ standards;
e. be able to evaluate objectively and impartially;
f. have no vested interest in, or conflict of interest with the institution to be visited;
g. treat all documents and information in a confidential manner.
The Council reserves the right to make the final choice of all evaluation teams. However, institutions will be notified of the membership of the team and should inform the Council of any concerns or reservations it may have about any member of the team.
1. Annual Status Reports
One of the conditions of accreditation is the submission of annual reports in the status of the accredited programme. Such reports must inform the Council of:
- Steps taken to satisfy any conditions upon which accreditation was granted;
- Any substantive changes in programme structure, course content, staffing, equipment and teaching facilities, requirements for student admissions, and financing arrangements.
Re-affirmation of the accreditation of a programme must occur at the end of the period of accreditation. Accreditation and re-accreditation are similar in both substance and procedure.
There will be a complete review of the programme by a visiting team which will, among other things, revisit the initial report to determine developments which the institution has implemented to maintain and enhance the quality of the programme and verify that the institution has effected any condition to accreditation which the Council may have imposed.
Re-accreditation is not automatic. Institutions must satisfy the Council that they continue to meet UCJ requirements for accreditation. The Council may shorten the period of accreditation or even refuse re-affirmation if it is found that the standards of the programme have not been maintained.
Institutions should submit application for re-accreditation at least three months prior to expiry of accreditation.