Education Minister Alden McLaughlin announced a further $1.5 million to be allocated toward teaching of tertiary level and vocational programmes at the University College of the Cayman Islands, bringing the college’s budget allocation for the 2007/2008 year to $3,803,000.
‘There is so much happening at the school, we are already finding it difficult to find the means and resources to accommodate all the programmes and students,’ he said.
The school is in the first phase of a five-year plan initiated with the arrival of UCCI’s new president Hassan Syed who has been working closely with the Ministry.
From an enrolment of 869 students in 05/06, student numbers swelled to 2,507 students in the 06/07 year, a number expected to increase even further in September 2007.
‘The take-up at UCCI is monumental, truly mind-boggling,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.
‘It can be attributed to a fundamental change in the approach to what UCCI does and stands for: it is incorporated into the local education strategy and offers programmes that are demand-driven,’ he said.
Mr. McLaughlin also credited the leadership of Mr. Syed, who has shown great commitment and dedication to turning the school around to meet the challenges of a globalizing world.
He cited the school’s focus on offering a slate of technical and vocational education and training programmes as a major factor in fostering student interest.
The school has taken great pains to reach out to the business community to find out the qualities it is seeking in new hires.
UCCI’s decision to align itself with the demands of businesses mean students can be confident that what they are learning is what is in demand locally.
By gaining internationally recognised certification in accounting, tourism and hospitality, electrical, information and computer technology and construction, UCCI TVET students also have another kind of head start in the workforce.
The college also offers a range of executive training in the fund management and compliance areas and will be offering an executive MBA certificate programme in conjunction with the University of Toronto’s highly-regarded Rotman School of Management and a teacher training programme in partnership with Brock University, also Canadian.
The campus has experienced another kind of turnaround. An intensive renovation programme has resulted in upgraded buildings and classrooms and is much more student-oriented in its accessibility and user-friendliness.
However, in its effort to grow the UCCI student body and the programmes on offer, Mr. Syed, speaking in Finance Committee, acknowledged a lack of student accommodations was an impediment to students from the Sister Islands attending UCCI.
‘We recognise that online learning is something useful in certain study streams, particularly at the graduate or certification level. But it is not recommended for students to take more than 40 per cent of their undergraduate courses online, because learning to learn is a key part of an undergraduate education,’ said Mr. Syed.
To that end, he said St. Matthews has provided a short-term solution to the housing issue by providing eight rooms for UCCI students at its residence hall. UCCI has also launched an initiative to source its own residence hall, a priority on the board of governors’ agenda.
Increasing access to tertiary education for all students also means that there are 1,000 scholarships available to students wishing to study at UCCI, although there is no government student loan programme in place.