Career & Education

UCJ internationally certified

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) recently received ISO 9001: 2015 certification, and accomplishment which is expected to enhance the agency's credibility and strengthen public as well as stakeholder confidence, particularly among its primary customer base — higher education institutions and their students.

The certification is also expected to enhance the global portability and competitiveness of qualifications obtained in Jamaica.

Much was made of the UCJ accomplishment on Thursday at the Pegasus hotel, where the National Certification Body of Jamaica awarded its clients who have earned various quality certifications.

Professor Stephen Vasciannie, president of the University of Technology, Jamaica congratulated the UCJ on the achievement, and stressed that the agency's work guards against degree mills.

“UCJ's purpose is to guard against degree mills. UCJ reserves the right to examine the quality of the degree and this is a safeguard against degree mills trying to set up in Jamaica,” he said.

Professor Dennis J Gayle, board chairman and executive chancellor of The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, also applauded acquisition of the ISO 9001 certification.

“What the ISO 9001:2015 certification mean is that there is greater confidence that the UCJ which is the national external quality assurance body for higher education in Jamaica is more efficient …. and this creates value,” Gayle said.

“This is in the interest of Jamaica's national development, specifically to the higher education sector. We get a multiplier effect as UCJ is improved, and its interactions with persons in the higher education sector are also improved. It then becomes a virtuous circle. We are one of a number of higher education institutions seeking institutional accreditation. We can expect greater transactional quality and rely that the ISO 9000:2015 standards will transfer to us in our interactions,” Gayle added.

Dr Neville Graham, head of the Jamaica-based Caribbean School of Medical Sciences was also among those who said the attainment of global certification by the UCJ bodes well for all concerned.

“Considering that medical education is an important investment, it then is important that the quality assurance agency has international recognition. That means being part of the ISO 9001 family allows the transfer of quality of assessment to be at global standards. This means that our local students can compete with the best in the world. The opening of the network is very important. For a medical student, portability is very critical,” he said.

At one time, higher education was seen as only for the elite. However, this changed with the establishment of the UCJ which, through its quality assurance processes, has enabled the development of a coherent higher education system in Jamaica and facilitated greater access to higher education for the citizens living in Jamaica.

Today, students have the option of pursuing their degree at any higher education institution, public or private, that has been quality assured by the UCJ.

“Jamaicans therefore have wider options and in fact, more affordable and flexible pathways to pursuing higher education,” said Dr Dawn Barrett Adams, accreditation officer at the UCJ.

“It doesn't matter if you enroll in a two-year associate's degree programme at a college or institute close to where you live that has been quality assured by the UCJ, work and then complete your final two years at a local or overseas university. You may even opt to complete the bachelor's degree at that college or institute. Once you check the UCJ's website and see that your institution or a programme has been quality assured, you are safe,” she continued.

The UCJ's stamp of approval means the programmes are internationally recognised and portable, she said further.

Executive director of the UCJ, Althea Heron, explains that “the quality assurance process is rigorous and requires higher education institutions to submit detailed documentation on their internal quality assurance processes. The UCJ spends quite a bit of time ensuring that the institution and its programme/s meet international standards for the profession and the standards for higher education.”

Higher educational institutions such as faith-based institutes, teachers' colleges, community colleges, the Jamaica Stock Exchange e-campus are examples of non-traditional learning institutions that have gone through the UCJ's rigorous quality assurance process.

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