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What is the difference between registration and accreditation as practised by the UCJ?

The UCJ’s quality assurance process involves two steps: the registration of institutions, and the accreditation of programmes.

Registration is a process whereby the UCJ evaluates, and as appropriate, registers an institution as a higher education institution, indicating that it meets certain minimum operating standards required for the conduct of higher education in Jamaica.  Registration is the first step towards the accreditation of programmes offered by an institution.

What happens after registration?


Accreditation states that a programme of study “is what it says it is”, “does what it says it does”, meets required standards, and is worthy of public confidence.

To date, the UCJ has seventy-eight (78) registered institutions and accredited five (5) institutions, four hundred and three (403) programmes and eight (8) short courses.

Accreditation is the status granted to a programme or institution that has been found, through self-study and peer review, to meet or exceed established standards for educational quality. This is determined through the process of evaluating the programme or institution against established quality standards.

Accreditation is voluntary and promotes institutional self-evaluation, self-regulation and accountability. The role of the accrediting body is to ensure the attainment and maintenance of quality through the application of educational standards.

There are two types of accreditation: Programmatic Accreditation and Institutional Accreditation.

Programmatic/Programme Accreditation

Programmatic/Programme accreditation focuses on individual programmes but also addresses the broader institutional environment. In this type of accreditation the UCJ evaluates programmes of study against stated criteria for such programmes and as appropriate grants accreditation indicating that the programmes have been found to meet the required threshold standards.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional Accreditation (IA) is a comprehensive evaluation of the institution and its academic and administrative effectiveness, with specific focus on its Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) system. The institution must demonstrate that it has an effective IQA system that manages quality across the entire institution, in all aspects of the institution’s life and operations resulting in the development, management and delivery of programmes that meet required standards. When an institution receives Institutional Accreditation all programmes offered are recognized.

What are the criteria/standards for accreditation?

Programmatic/Programme accreditation

There are several criteria/standards against which programmes are evaluated.

These include:

  • The mission and governance structure of the institution;
  • The quality of the programme, including: aims and philosophy; structure and content; and programme management;
  • The quality of students admitted;
  • The quality of staff who deliver instruction;
  • Methods used to assess student learning;
  • The adequacy of resources to support programmes; and
  • The student support services.

Institutional Accreditation

There are several criteria/standards against which institutions are evaluated.

These include:

  • Mission and goals;
  • Planning and evaluation;
  • Governance and management;
  • Teaching and learning;
  • Faculty;
  • Students and student support services;
  • Library and information resources;
  • Physical and technological resources;
  • Financial resources; and
  • Integrity

What does the process of programme accreditation involve?

The programme/programmatic accreditation process involves the following steps:

  • Preparation and submission of a Self-Study by the institution;
  • Site visit by a team of experts selected by the UCJ;
  • Report on team’s findings sent to the institution for a response;
  • Institution’s response and team’s report reviewed by the Accreditation, Curriculum and Development (AC&D) sub Committee of the UCJ Council, and recommendation made to full UCJ Council;
  • Decision made by full Council and communicated to the institution; and
  • Institution signs and returns Council Decision Letter acknowledging acceptance of the decision from the Council.

What does the process of institutional accreditation involve?

A registered institution seeking institutional accreditation must undergo the following process:

  1. The Institution submits an expression of interest in a Letter of Intent;
  2. Submission of evidence of meeting eligibility criteria is documented in a portfolio. If the eligibility evidence is deemed satisfactory, the institution is granted Candidacy for Institutional Accreditation;
  3. The institution prepares and submits the Institutional Self Study (ISS);
  4. The Application and Institutional Self-Study submission is reviewed for completeness; the evaluation team is selected and trained for the accreditation visit.
  5. A site visit is conducted with interviews of the stakeholders of the institution and review of its facilities and resources;
  6. Institutional Accreditation report is prepared by members of the evaluation team and sent to the institution;
  7. The institution submits a formal response to the UCJ;
  8. The Institutional Accreditation Report and the Institution’s response is reviewed by the UCJ Council which leads to an  Accreditation Decision;
  9. An Institution granted Institutional Accreditation must submit annual status reports and participate in a mid-cycle review during the period of accreditation;
  10. The Institution submits an application to renew accreditation after which a full re-evaluation of the institution undertaken.

What happens after accreditation?

The UCJ monitors all accredited institutions, programmes and short courses to ensure that there is ongoing improvement and maintenance of standards. During the accreditation period, the institution must submit to the UCJ, annual status reports on the accredited programmes. Periodic visits to the institution are also made by the UCJ and consultations are held as the need arises.

What are the benefits of being registered and recognised by the UCJ?

The UCJ is known, recognized and respected internationally, and its accreditation decisions are internationally accepted, bringing recognition and acceptance to programmes of study and qualifications earned at Jamaican tertiary education institutions. As part of its process, the UCJ monitors all registered institutions and accredited programmes in order to ensure that required standards have not only been attained, but are being maintained.

How do I know if a programme is accredited?

The UCJ produces an updated listing of accredited programmes and registered institutions as soon as new programmes/institutions are accredited or institutions registered. This listing is available on the UCJ’s website.

What can students do if they feel that a registered institution or an accredited programme is not meeting the UCJ’s standards?

Signed complaints must be submitted in writing to the Executive Director of the UCJ, providing specific information.

What if the programme is not accredited?

A programme that  is  not  accredited  is  not necessarily  a  programme  that  is  inferior  or without  educational  value.  Some programmes are new, and have not yet had a graduating cohort. They are therefore not yet eligible to be evaluated for accreditation.  In these cases, the registration status and overall reputation of the institution, as well as feedback from the institution and current students will be critical.

What are diplomas/degree mills?

A diploma mill (or degree mill) is a dubious provider of education that offers certificates, diplomas, and degrees that are considered bogus and/or of questionable quality.  Diplomas or degrees offered by “mills” do not meet the standards required for such qualifications.  In many cases degrees can be bought for a stated sum of money, without attendance at classes.

Some questions that will help persons make a determination as to whether a degree provider is a “mill” are:

  • Is there a claim of accreditation when there is no evidence of this status?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation from a questionable accrediting organisation?
  • Does the entity have the authority to operate?
  • Is a very short period of time required to earn a degree?
  • Are degrees based mainly on experience and resume review?
  • Does the entity have a name similar to another well-known, legitimate college or university (e.g. Oxford International University)?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications, for which there is no evidence?
  • Are fees relatively low, and seemingly unrelated to the true cost of providing legitimate education?
  • If in doubt about the legitimacy of an institution, check with the University Council of Jamaica.

How can I access the list of the accredited programmes and institutions?

On the homepage of the UCJ’s website, choose the “Registered Institutions” and “Accredited Programmes” buttons to search through our database.

What are the services offered by the UCJ?

The University Council of Jamaica functions essentially as an accrediting, awards and academic development body for degree, diploma and certificate programmes proposed and developed at approved higher education institutions. Its main functions are:

  • Development of Academic Standards
  • Registration of higher education institutions operating in Jamaica.
  • Accreditation of Academic programmes offered by local and overseas institutions operating in Jamaica.
  • Institutional Accreditation.
  • Evaluation of credentials, and credentials for CSME Certificate of Recognition.
  • Provision of Information concerning institutions and programmes offered locally, regionally and internationally.

What is a credential assessment?

The UCJ’s Credential assessment process determines:

  1. Whether a qualification gained abroad should be recognised for employment purposes or allows entry to higher education in Jamaica.
  2. Whether a qualification gained abroad may be accepted as comparable in standard to one gained through a locally accredited programme.

How do I choose an overseas university?

  1. The institution must be recognised/ accredited in its country by the competent authority (i.e. External Quality Assurance Agency) of the university.
  2. The programme of study must be accredited/ recognised by the competent authority in the country of the university.
  3. Conduct thorough research regarding:
    • The quality of education
    • Market reputation
    • Professional acceptability of qualification
    • The coverage of curriculum
    • Type and adequacy of student support
    • Admission requirements
  4. Ensure that the number of credits assigned to the programme are aligned to the minimum standards for the different levels, as outlined by the UCJ:
    • Associate = 60 credits (minimum 2 years of study)
    • Bachelors = 120 credits (minimum 4 years of study)
    • Masters = 30 credits (minimum 1 year full-time)
    • Postgraduate diploma = 30 credits (normally 1 year)
    • Doctoral – (minimum 3 years)

See additional information “Choosing programmes offered by overseas institutions” under the section “Credential Assessment” on our website.

I am presently pursuing my degree with a foreign institution, on completion how do I get my qualification recognised in Jamaica?

On return from study, the qualification obtained would be assessed by the UCJ against local standards for recognition in Jamaica. Recognition would normally be granted if there is not a substantial difference between the foreign qualification and local standards.

For credential assessment application guidelines please visit the link:

What happens after accreditation for past degree holders after accreditation is granted?

Accreditation by the UCJ is not retroactive.  This means that students who graduate prior to the effective date of accreditation of a programme of study will not automatically benefit from the accreditation status granted.  Students who graduate within 1-2 years prior to the effective date of accreditation may apply to the UCJ for an equivalence of their qualification to the accredited programme.  The decision to grant equivalence within 1-2 years is made if there is no substantial change to the curriculum and students’ learning experience.

The UCJ’s statement of equivalence signifies completion of a programme of study and that the programme, though completed prior to the accredited one, is considered comparable in standard in terms of length, content, and learning outcomes for the field of study.  In this way, the qualification conferred by the institution may be accepted for employment purposes and for the purpose of further education in the field of study.