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Minister of Education, the Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says there will be changes to how the Government provides grant support for the country’s two major universities.

“We are in discussion to do it (grants provision) differently from now on,” the Minister informed on Wednesday, May 15, while making his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House.

The changes, he said, are aimed at ensuring greater value for money and to avoid unnecessary duplication among state-funded entities.

“Rather than a straight grant, we feel the taxpayers’ contribution should be related to specific research and instructional programmes and projects, which add focused value to Jamaica at this time,” Rev. Thwaites told the House.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) and University of Technology (UTech) receive large grants from the Government annually. Approximately $8.5 billion or 11 per cent of the education budget is earmarked for grant funding to the universities this year.

Rev. Thwaites informed that talks are underway with the institutions to identify and cost those programmes, which the Government can support.

In the meantime, Minister Thwaites is advising tertiary-level students to be more vigilant when choosing educational institutions, and to only enroll in programmes that have Approved Programme Status and are accredited by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ).

“The line in the advertisement which says “registered with the Ministry of Education” is not good enough,” the Minister informed.

He further appealed to students, when selecting programmes of study, to not only consider what is easiest, or cheapest, “or what you think you like. Choose a programme that is most likely to fit you for an available job or a range of occupations.”

He noted that this approach is crucial, given that there is currently “a huge mismatch between certified graduates and available jobs”.

“For now, we have enough nail technicians, lawyers, guidance counselling graduates and international relations experts. We need science and mathematics teachers, dentists, nurses, and persons with maritime and aviation skills. This is a call to action,” he stated.

The Education Minister said that up-to-date workforce information must inform tertiary choices and investments, noting that this will help to guide priorities for student funding as well.

Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards