From short courses, diplomas, bachelors programmes all the way to doctoral programmes, the landscape of higher education has undergone significant transformation over the last few years.
While the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) values diversity in the types of institutions and educational and training units operating in Jamaica, the agency has recognised the need for its quality assurance process as the gate keeping method to protect Jamaicans from fraudulent institutions being set up in Jamaica and qualifications.
Access to higher education in an affordable manner and having institutions provide quality education and training that is inclusive, internationally recognized and portable is the driving force that is going to lift Jamaica’s economic development.
The General Providers and Brokers is a new category that allows for the incorporation of non-traditional providers. This category will facilitate the registration of institutions that do not provide academic awards that are independent of an awarding body. Brokers which are institutions offering tutorial support for cross-border higher education providers as well as traditional sixth forms (Grades 12 and 13) are included in this category.”
According to Heron, “this revised classification system allows the UCJ to quality assure all institutions and training units in Jamaica. It also facilitates a more diversified higher education sector that provides options for Jamaicans to pursue their career goals.”
This is consistent with the policy direction articulated by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information of having an inclusive higher education system that enables at least 80 per cent of the eligible cohort to gain higher education certification. Through the UCJ’s quality assurance process, all institutions operating in Jamaica will be quality assured and the qualifications gained by our citizens would be portable and credible.
So, in addition, to being a gateway to higher education and training, the UCJ is a gate keeper to fraudulent degrees and diploma mills.”
There are a plethora of public and private institutions and providers that are operating in Jamaica, some of which are quality assured by the UCJ and appears on the UCJ’s list of Registered Institutions and Training Institutions. The UCJ’s previous system of classification recognised three distinct categories of institutions: tertiary; university colleges; and universities.
Heron acknowledges that this classification system did not sufficiently account for the distinctiveness and specialisation reflected in Jamaica’s current higher education landscape. Jamaica’s post-secondary and higher education programmes are offered by a wide variety of institutions/ providers, each of which differs somewhat in history, mission, philosophy, modes of instruction, structure, student body, ownership and to a lesser extent, in the programmes they offer.
According to Heron, “the emergence of new types of institutions and training units offering a range of programmes for specific professional disciplines is important to satisfying the labour market needs. These needs are for qualified human capital with the requisite knowledge and competencies necessary to drive economic development.”
Amidst the liberalization and growth in the higher education sector, there are challenges brought on by technological advancement such as borderless education and online education. In order to ensure that all institutions operating in Jamaica are accounted for and are able to access our quality assurance process, the UCJ expanded the categories of institutions to four, namely: General Providers and Brokers; General Academic and Applied Institutions; University Colleges and Specialized Institutions; and Universities.