The Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (Amendment, Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2021 was passed in the House of Representatives on June 22.
The Bill seeks to expressly empower the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) to grant and confer academic awards and distinctions and to rescind such awards and distinctions where the Council may have good and sufficient cause so to do, and validate and confirm previous acts of the Council in granting such academic awards and distinctions and to provide for indemnification in respect thereof.
Piloting the legislation, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, said prior to the enactment of the CCCJ Act, when the Council was formed on or after the first day of January 1993, members of the Council, in good faith and in the purported exercise of their jurisdiction, issued awards that were authenticated by the signature of the principal of the respective college, the chairman of the Council and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry with responsibility for education.
“The Council continued this practice upon incorporation until it became aware that the CCCJ Act did not confer on the Council authority to make awards,” Mrs. Williams said.
She noted that Section 4(d) of the CCCJ Act empowers the Council to determine the conditions for the holding of examinations leading to awards.
“The emphasis is not on the granting of awards itself but on the holding of examinations. Similarly, Section 4(j) of the Act refers to the examination and assessment of students by the Council, not the conferring or granting of awards. Section 4(o) of the Act is limited to acts that further the functions listed in the said Act,” Mrs. Williams explained.
“Consequently, the award of degrees, diplomas, certificates, inter alia, by the Council is outside the powers expressly conferred by the CCCJ Act. At common law, there is a presumption of validity of the award until a court of competent jurisdiction declares the award to be void or if it is withdrawn by the Council on the basis that it is null and void,” she added.
The Education Minister said the proposed amendments do not pose any immediate implications for existing legislation.
“Beyond that, I wish to indicate to the House that the Ministry is in the process of reviewing the governance arrangements of the Higher Education Sector to inform necessary reforms, which, as required, will be advanced to Cabinet in due course,” Mrs. Williams said.
In her remarks Opposition Spokesperson on Education, Dr. Angela Brown Burke, said the passage of the legislation is important.
“So many individuals would have been conferred with degrees, diplomas, and years later, which is where we are now, we are actually ensuring that the Council that carried out those acts are actually empowered to do so as well as indemnifying and validating those that have already been done,” she said.