This column has been unswerving in arguing the benefits of tertiary education. Resources dedicated to this level of education are well placed as all the evidence shows that higher education is instrumental in fostering growth, reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. A highly skilled workforce, with a solid post-secondary education, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth: well- educated people are more employable, earn higher wages, and cope with economic shocks better.
A World Bank Report on the subject says that Higher education fosters growth, reduces poverty and boosts prosperity.
The report says that ‘A highly skilled workforce, with a solid post-secondary education, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth: well- educated people are more employable, earn higher wages, and cope with economic shocks better.’ It continues- ‘Higher education benefits not just the individual, but society as well. Graduates of higher education are more environmentally conscious, have healthier habits, and have a higher level of civic participation.’
‘Also, increased tax revenues from higher earnings, healthier children, and reduced family size all build stronger nations. In short, higher education institutions prepare individuals not only by providing them with adequate and relevant job skills, but also by preparing them to be active members of their communities and societies’.
In addition to these benefits is the fact that tertiary education, more than any other level, must teach and develop the skills of critical thinking. These skills are vital for the sustenance of our democratic practices and for the further evolution and maturity of our societies. The examined life, to borrow from Socrates, is thus a requirement for national development.
Our local university, UCCI, has been quietly making transformational changes to better place it on a trajectory for sustained contributions to the Cayman Islands. Readers who follow developments at this University will know that the school has adopted three ‘pillars’ around which its plans and activities cohere.
The first and most crucial is that of student centeredness: ‘A UCCI education builds social and cultural capital, advances subject matter expertise and cognitive development, and nurtures agency and civic responsibility providing school leavers and adults with a lifetime of personal and professional successes.’ The second is that the University must be adequately resourced. As is stated in the Strategic Plan, ‘Through the strategic engagement of the UCCI campus community with external stakeholders, the institution has secured the resources and relationships needed to fulfil its mission and purpose.’
The third pillar of the strategic plan is for UCCI to become the engine of economic development, innovation and social change: ‘UCCI’s teaching and scholarly activities regularly adapt to address the educational, research and innovation needs of Cayman’s main economic sectors providing essential knowledge and support to the economy while undertaking activities aimed at solving societal challenges.’
The university believes, correctly, that the fist pillar is the most important and crucial. In this respect, one of the things it has done is explicitly state the standards to which it aspires.
These standards cover the gamut of student achievement and learning outcomes, institutional integrity, faculty, institutional planning and effectiveness and policies, procedures and practices as they affect the academic enterprise.
Subsequent columns will bring extracts from the UCCI statement of academic standards as they relate to the student experience and other areas of university life.