By Lindsey Turnbull
Calling it a matter of pride not only for the UCCI but also the nation as a whole, UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee outlined this week the university’s bid to become accredited by America’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
“It’s a moment of pride starting 2021, setting our sights to continue to evolve,” she confirmed. “It’s our 46th year of providing tertiary education in the Cayman Islands, so it’s a great way for us to continue to evolve, to grow, to serve our students and our nation even better,” Ms McAfee said.
Providing international recognition for Cayman’s most important tertiary education institution, a SACS affiliation would align UCCI with such schools in the United States as Georgia State University, Alabama State University and Florida International University and would bring greater opportunity for collaboration between UCCI and such schools, including scholarly research, UCCI Provost and Vice President J.D. Mosley-Matchett said. These schools, in particular, were some of the most popular with Cayman students graduating from UCCI who were looking for further study, she confirmed. The SACS accreditation was also found elsewhere in the world, in universities in Trinidad, Costa Rica and the Ukraine, she advised.
Elevating a UCCI qualification
Underscoring the impact such an accreditation would have for UCCI, Dr Mosley-Matchett said:
“Accreditation by SACS will once and for all dispel doubts about the quality of education offered at UCCI…This is something we can do and this is something we will accomplish,” she said. “Admittedly, achieving this status will take a great deal of effort and resources, but the results will elevate UCCI’s profile both locally and globally. Achieving SACS accreditation will benefit our students, our faculty, our alumni, and our nation by underscoring the value of a UCCI diploma.”
Dr McAfee explained the benefits for students.
“Students need a holistic development,” she advised. “A college experience used to be strictly about academics, but really we know that we are whole people that learn and grow and receive knowledge and understanding through a series of experiences, some inside the classroom, some outside the classroom and so institutions are considering what does that mean in terms of the work we need to do and what we might do. This might look different from next year. It’s a way of holding ourselves accountable, becoming the very best version of who we want to be. Our strategic plan calls for us to do this and it really helps us to realise so many of the strategies and objectives within that plan.”
The gold standard for education
It is anticipated that the initial application will be completed by the end of 2021, but the accreditation process is a complex one and is detailed and lengthy and is therefore expected to take three to four years to complete
“This particular accreditation looks at every programme that we offer it,” Ms McAfee explained. “It doesn’t look at just the infrastructure and the decision making and the governance, but it also looks at every programme and how we measure our success and what are the learning outcomes. So, once we do that, that sets a gold standard and from there we may look at other areas, like engineering or social sciences and counselling, where there are opportunities for us to continue to grow. We already have accreditation for our business programme, so it’s another layer of that.”
It is an important step for the university, aligning everything it does with international standards, she confirmed, explaining that the university has to first become a member, then move towards a candidacy status and then, from there, there will be a final accreditation visit.
“Over that period of time we will not only be studying and evolving as a university, we will also be aligning with those standards, but we will do it in a way that is relevant and important for the Cayman Islands,” Dr McAfee said. “In the end, it’s a process that is not only internally developed but externally validated, and each year we hold ourselves accountable to those standards and continue to grow and place quality at the centre of everything we do.”
“I believe the institution is now ready to start the process,” she said. “It’s one that will help us to both elevate the quality of education at our institution and shine a light on what UCCI has to offer.”
UCCI is already accredited with the Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities in the United Kingdom and the Kansas-based International Accreditation Council for Business Education.