UCC, ministry sign higher education agreement

Monday, January 29, 2018

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Pointing to bright employment prospects in various sectors of the economy, Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid last Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) to increase access to higher education and training for high school students.

The agreement establishes the UCC's Early College and Advanced Placement Credits in High Schools Programme, which will be delivered initially through clusters of 50 select high schools in 10 parishes across Jamaica. The MOU also seeks to extend the ministry's Centre of Occupational Studies' associate degrees to high schools in 10 parishes, initially through UCC sub-campuses. It is envisioned than an initial maximum of 5,000 students will be able to participate in the programme each year.

Likening the launch of the programme to Emancipation Day, Senator Reid told attendees at the official launch of the programme at UCC's head office in New Kingston: “We must move away from elitism. Education must liberate our people.”

Reid noted that the project was also in keeping with the Education Ministry's policy goals of ensuring that all secondary school graduates have an opportunity to earn an associate's degree by the time they complete grade 13.

“This is another revolutionary approach being taken,” he said, “to diversify tertiary level education in Jamaica while providing appropriate skills training in the arts, science and technology, in response to specific industry demands, and provide a pool of highly skilled and knowledgeable workers.”

He disclosed that students and graduates of the UCC-accredited associate or occupational degrees will benefit from local commercial and industrial linkages, which will allow them to gain hands-on experience in a variety of ways. In addition, he said, students had a greater potential for employment following graduation, creating a workforce pipeline that should be attractive to corporate Jamaica.

In his remarks, UCC Executive Chancellor Dennis Gayle pointed out that although 90 per cent of age-cohort students are enrolled in high school, only 19 per cent (16-30 years) are enrolled in tertiary education.

“This UCC initiative is intended as a significant service to the community, which will help our nation to further develop its human capital resources, generating momentum towards sustainable economic growth and development,” Gayle told the gathering of largely educators from across the island.

Dr Winston Adams, group executive chairman UCC, said the university recognised that offering college credits or an associate's degree within select high schools across Jamaica made it possible for students to pursue an accredited bachelor degree at half the cost. He lauded the Education Ministry, through its Centre of Occupational Studies, for offering full scholarships to students pursuing a number of occupational associate degrees in keeping with labour market demand.

In addition, the UCC Foundation US Inc will offer 50 per cent tuition scholarship to students pursuing associate's degrees in business administration, hospitality and tourism management, and information technology.

Several organisations are partnering with the UCC to implement the Early College and Advanced Placement Credits in High Schools Programme, including the Students' Loan Bureau, Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission, Joint Committee for Teacher Education, Centre for Occupational Studies, Jamaica Agriculture Society and Florida International University.

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