Mrs Simpson Miller was delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Conference of Executive Heads of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which was held at the regional headquarters of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, St. Andrew.
The Prime Minister said:“Our students, I noted, stood toe-to-toe, and successfully matched minds, wits, strategies, techniques and intellect with students from Ivy League universities whichare considered to be global tertiary-level powerhouses. Each time they have faced them – whether it is in law debates or ICT competitions, in natural sciences, the humanities, social sciences or interdisciplinary studies – our students have shown them who the world leaders really are.”
Commenting on the publishing of university rankings, the Prime Minister noted that these could help to establish quality assurance procedures, strengthen the culture of transparency inuniversitiesand societiesand improve competition among universities, and, in this regard, should not be viewed in isolation.
“We need to align university rankings with the purpose of higher education in our region. To solve complex societal problems, higher education must take account of social responsiveness. That means, ensuring that our universities address major social challenges; it means they must engage meaningfully with communities. The task of social responsiveness also involves sensible allocation of university resources to research,” Mrs Simpson Miller said.
Mrs Simpson Miller further said:“Jamaica’s general education policy addresses issues and standards such as quality and equity, (and) networks and partnerships of creative cooperation across the system. I urge you to understand that this is not a self-serving account. Rather, it represents a call for help from our universities; a call for stronger public-private partnerships that recognize and solve societal problems."
In this regard, the Prime Minister listed some of the issues being addressed by her administration as: securing better quality among the growing quantity of universities; addressing the quality of the guidance universities provide to address their own needs, the needs of our communities, the needs of our market niches,and the overall guidance to the policy needs of the local society.
The Prime Minister said that universities are necessary for countries to become strong,but also proposed that the role of universities today is to “focus on creating knowledge, promoting engaged leadership and citizenship, as well as building real capacities for problem solving.”
Mrs Simpson Miller’s remarks came against the background of the publication ofan international report that includes a top 200 ranking of universities. That list contains only one university across the Central and South American region; and one on the continent of Africa. The top eleven universities are in the United States of America (USA)and United Kingdom (UK)..
The Association of Commonwealth Universities, at 100 years, this year, is the oldest conglomeration of universities in the world.