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Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said the region needs to address the issue of quality assurance in the delivery of tertiary education.

He noted that while there is a free market for higher education, it need not become a "flea market."

“We operate in this region under a free market system and the free market extends to the realm of tertiary education but a free market does not have to be a flea market.  The concept of the Eurocentric ivory tower clearly has passed its time, but it must not be replaced by a ‘bend down plaza’ of so-called higher education,” Minister Thwaites stated.

He was addressing the opening ceremony for the 9th Annual Conference of the Caribbean Area Network of Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE) on Wednesday, at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.

According to the Education Minister, “the wisdom and standards and decisions of the University Council and the Jamaica Tertiary Commission are being overwhelmed by persuasive advertisements, which are luring people at extraordinary expense and hemorrhage of foreign exchange towards programmes, which are not worthy of your seal of approval."

He therefore called on the delegates of the 15 countries attending the conference, to focus on this issue and other challenges affecting tertiary education in the region.

“I…hope that, indeed, this occasion can be one of great wisdom and can address the education systems of the nation and the Caribbean, with clear standards that are known to the public … these are not clear right now in Jamaica,” he stated. 

The Education Minister, in the meantime, commended the persons and organizations, in particular the taxpayers of the Caribbean, who have consistently funded higher education across the region.

He also lauded the founders and the sustainers “who, despite great odds and many scorners, have advanced tertiary education and have taken it outside of the capitals into the rural areas, and have nurtured a concept that indeed, higher education would no longer be the preserved (right) of people of light skin … but rather would become the ambition, the achievable objective of the vast majority of our people."

The two-day conference, which ended today, was held under the theme: “Internationalization and quality assurance in tertiary education: Issues and challenges’.

It was hosted by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ), which is the national quality assurance agency for tertiary education.