The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ), the National External Quality Assurance Agency for higher education in Jamaica, acting on its mandate of Assuring Quality in Higher Education is doing all that it can to maintain quality and continuous improvement throughout the Jamaican higher education sector during this COVID-19 period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in the landscape of the education sector in Jamaica with the closing of educational institutions on March 13, 2020 in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Institutions were forced into an emergency online delivery of lessons and all levels of the education sector became a part of this paradigm shift. The higher education sector for which the UCJ has oversight responsibility of maintaining quality was not spared, and as such, the UCJ has devised strategies to help in alleviating this problem.

Professor Errol Morrison, Chairman of the UCJ stated that “The internet connectivity challenges faced by higher education institutions (HEI’s) are of concern for the Council, and It is in this regard that the UCJ is advocating on behalf of the higher education sector by seeking the intervention of the Universal Service Fund (USF), and E-Learning to chart the way forward in ensuring basic infrastructure are in place to deliver quality education.”

The UCJ conducted a survey in all HEI’s to determine the ICT profile of each in order to assess the capability and ICT challenges and to facilitate the preparation of a proposal to the Universal Service Fund.

As a significant cost saving initiative for the higher education institutions, the UCJ is advocating on behalf of both public and private HEI’s, by seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology, in facilitating those institutions registered with the UCJ, in the procurement of required teaching and learning equipment needed through a bulk purchasing arrangement with E-Learning Jamaica Limited.

The Students’ Loan Bureau has extended its closing date for the application of loans to the end of June 2020 for this academic year and is encouraging students to apply for these loans. Institutions are also reminded to bring up to date their programmes accreditation status so that students can benefit from the SLB loans.

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