UCCI education: It's a matter of degree

“I come from the private sector, and if somebody came to me with an associate degree, I’m really not going to pay much attention. I’m looking for at least a bachelor’s. I’m really looking for a master’s. An associate degree in this day and age is pretty much meaningless.”

— Sheree Ebanks, former UCCI board chairwoman

Can you handle the truth?

Some people in the Cayman Islands apparently cannot, as evidenced by the visceral and vicious responses to a frank assessment of the associate degree program at the University College of the Cayman Islands by board chairwoman Sheree Ebanks, who resigned from her position last week.

The public backlash was not the reason for the departure of Ms. Ebanks, who resigned because she believed her UCCI board position conflicted with her role as CEO of the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants.

Nonetheless, the cascades of sour notes (mixed in with some sour grapes) marring her exit were unwarranted, misguided and uncalled for.

Ms. Ebanks’s matter-of-fact comment was derived from her own professional experience in Cayman, and accords with UCCI’s “Towards a Viable UCCI” report, which states, “There is no good evidence that there exists any labor market demand within Cayman for employees who are trained only with an associate degree in business … [They] offer nothing that our students might later use as a career advantage.” The report recommends eliminating the two-year associate business degrees altogether.

Even so, we would not denigrate the initiative that young Caymanians exhibit in enrolling in UCCI’s associate degree program, or, for that matter, any post-secondary educational pursuits. That already places them ahead of many of their classmates graduating from local high schools.

Putting that aside, we’re not sure why Ms. Ebanks’s statement caused the uproar that it did. From our perspective in the private sector, UCCI’s associate business degrees comprise only a sample of the “undervalued” degrees offered by UCCI.

Now, this comment is not intended to reflect negatively on UCCI’s students or teachers, but is an allusion to UCCI’s lack of accreditation as a higher education institution. As far as businesses (especially off-island) are concerned, it wouldn’t make a difference if faculty members included Albert Einstein, Adam Smith and Socrates, in the absence of external validation of UCCI’s worth.

On this most fundamental front, we (and the UCCI administration, we’re sure) eagerly await the results of UCCI’s application before the U.K.-based Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities, which sent an inspector to the Grand Cayman campus earlier this month. At the time, the inspector said his organization’s decision would be made known by around April 1.

While we have defended Ms. Ebanks’s statement on associate degrees, we disagree with the entire direction of UCCI’s “viability report” — that is, toward a reduction in operations and budget.

On the contrary, we would argue that the way forward for UCCI should be one of enhancement, expansion and growth. The opening up of the board chairmanship and the possible accreditation of UCCI could, amid a renewed public focus on education in Cayman, provide the opportunity that UCCI needs to re-imagine and re-establish itself as Cayman’s premier provider of higher learning.

Though UCCI is just now on the cusp of meaningful accreditation, the Cayman government’s experiment in tertiary education has been going on for 40 years. The time is ripe for a metamorphosis of mission at UCCI, which will only be possible with the assurance of full funding and strengthened support from our elected officials and community leaders.

If our public sector cannot transform UCCI into the flagship educational institution that Cayman needs and deserves, the only other rational alternative, we submit, is for government to get out of the business of college altogether and to pursue the relevant policy goals by devoting those resources elsewhere.


  1. I never thought that we needed another college. But a vocational school or hotel training school is definitely needed. Gov’t should strive to help private schools and ICCI. By providing a smaller portion to these schools it helps Gov’t to save money in the long run. Triple C as a comparison cost was 5 million to build . Frank sound high school was 100 million.
    Gov’t will continue to pay with no guarantee of its final qualification of student success?
    Costs will rise as teachers safety is not certain . Laws protect children and not adults . How do you administer punishment or segregate problem children?
    The system is failing to achieve success for average and below average children.
    A whole new sector of costs will arise for children services to mitigate social issues.
    Then we have human rights issues which will open another can of worms.
    There is no one to teach discipline and are systematically teaching the next group of under qualified HS students to fail in society.
    Children having problems at home caused by parents not being able to pay bills. Which is causing more cost to Gov’t. The whole family unit is failing to cope with its structure which will not be a pretty picture in years to come.
    How can we not see the future? We have changed so many laws to be like them we are no longer like us. We must start from the beginning, pre-school, K-1 etc. Allow young HS students to only graduate if they can read, write and do arithmetic. Otherwise they will never achieve success. How about teaching them how to raise a family?
    There are so many other opportunities that can be done in less then 2 years. A properly run Vocational and Hotel training school will achieve the missing link.

  2. 200 Million spent on High Schools and cutbacks at the only College in Cayman which is already in dire states.

    Need I say more..

    Those students that bust their butts working hard to get higher education some who work two jobs to pay for it all deserve more such as an actual accredited degree that is internationally recognized. Right now if you spend 2 years at ICCI to get an Associates Degree and want to go on to pursue a BS all the work you put in at ICCI wouldn’t even be recognized towards your BS at any other accredited college

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