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Story Highlights

  • Persons urged to check with the UCJ for information on the accreditation status of institutions and programmes
  • An upsurge of fraudulent behaviour in the academic realm worldwide
  • It is very important for institutions that wish to command confidence and respect in the academic community, to be accredited

The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) is urging persons to do their due diligence and check the registration and accreditation status of universities and colleges before enrolling at the institution.

Speaking at a Jamaica Information Service Think Tank held on September 10 at the agency’s head office in Kingston, Director of Accreditation at the UCJ, Grace Gordon, urged persons to check with the UCJ for information on the accreditation status of institutions and programmes.

Ms. Gordon noted that there are several reasons that drive the need for an institution or programme’s status to be thoroughly investigated.

Chief among them, she said, is the upsurge of fraudulent behaviour in the academic realm worldwide, including the sale of fake degrees, which means that persons have to ensure that the academic programmes they wish to pursue are legitimate.

“These activities also take place with distance learning. There are diploma mills that go as far as selling certificates, diplomas, degrees,” Ms. Gordon said.

She noted that although accreditation is not mandatory, it is very important for institutions that wish to command confidence and respect in the academic community, to be accredited.

“Accreditation is voluntary, however the market determines whether or not an institution that chooses not to become registered and receive accreditation for their programmes survives,” Ms. Gordon pointed out.

She noted that accreditation is not retroactive, meaning that persons who graduate from an unaccredited programme of study, will not automatically benefit from accredited status being assigned to their degrees, if the institution receives accreditation for the programme, after the course has been completed.

“It is easy to call the UCJ and receive information about programmes before you pay money for something you know very little about,” she said.

Chairman of the Board of the UCJ, Ambassador Burchell Whiteman added that the registration and accreditation of universities and their programmes, are in the best interest of the institutions and individuals seeking higher education, and is also important to employers and the nation in particular.

He further stated that registration from UCJ certifies that an institution meets certain minimum operating standards required for the conduct of a tertiary institution in Jamaica. “Registration is the first step towards accreditation of programmes offered by an institution,” Ambassador Whiteman explained.

Meanwhile Executive Director of the UCJ, Dr. Yvonnette Marshall informed that although registration and accreditation are not mandatory in Jamaica, there are certain policies that drive institutions to get their programmes accredited.

She cited the Students’ Loan Bureau where one of the requirements is that programmes which persons are seeking loans to pursue, must be accredited by the UCJ.

She also disclosed that employers in both the public and private sector seek confirmation of accredited institutions from the UCJ, when making decisions regarding employment.  “UCJ receives various queries before persons receive pay and also with employees who wish to get study leave, checks are done before the study leave period is granted,” Dr. Marshall said.

“Even scholarships that are issued to tertiary level students, is only granted if the institution is recognized and the particular programme the student is to receive the scholarship for is accredited,” she explained.

On the matter of those institutions, which falsely claim to be tertiary institutions in their advertisements, Ambassador Whiteman, says currently there is no penalty in place for the UCJ to deal with these institutions. However, he notes that the development of the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission matter should address matter.

The UCJ Chairman is therefore urging parents, guardians and prospective students to do their due diligence and check with the UCJ to verify the status of universities and programmes that are being considered.