The retirement of Roy Bodden from the position of president at the University College of the Cayman Islands presents leaders with the opportunity to write a bold new chapter in the history of higher education in our country.
As the five-member committee embarks on a search for a new UCCI president, they – and the rest of the community – should evaluate anew what our country expects and deserves from its preeminent institution of higher learning. We suggest starting, not with a “long list” of candidates, but with a blank blackboard.
An initial topic to be considered is the fundamental question of whether higher education in Cayman should be primarily a government venture or be driven by the private sector. Both models exist in other countries, such as the U.S., and there are numerous examples of excellence in each.
Here, the private International College of the Cayman Islands has achieved remarkable successes in recent years under the leadership of ICCI Board Chairman Mike Mannisto and former president David Marshall. The school (which, too, is searching for a new president) has adopted an admirable and effective ethos of higher standards and increased accountability.
The idea has been discussed for decades, but is it finally time for UCCI and ICCI to merge into one institution? (We believe there is great potential.)
Whatever the particulars – and many of these, perhaps, could be determined in part by the future UCCI president – we have in our minds three basic metrics for a successful college in Cayman:
- Local high school graduates (and their parents) are proud to enroll there
- Local professionals are pleased with the opportunities for continuing education
- International students are battling over the limited number of spots for matriculation.
Mr. Bodden, the outgoing UCCI president, deserves the country’s thanks for his steady-handed leadership of the public college in the choppy wake of the scandals generated by his predecessor Hassan Syed. (Current address: Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward.)
When members of the search committee are considering applications to succeed President Bodden, they should be looking for a transformational figure with a clear vision for creating a world-class university in Cayman. What they should disregard in their vetting process is the citizenship or immigration status of the applicants. (Just leave that “checkbox” off the application form.)
If the new president is Caymanian, great. If the new president is not, also great. In order for Cayman to have a world-class institution, it requires a world-class leader. That means looking all over the world.
For years and years, the community has dreamed of creating a premier institution of higher education in Cayman, but that goal remains elusive.
If presented with a plan that will truly elevate higher learning in Cayman – one that will surely require a significant and ongoing investment of resources – we are confident that all sectors of our society will unite in support, including politicians, parents, students and businesses.
The reality is most Caymanian families simply cannot afford to send their children to the overseas college of their choice. Public and private scholarships do abound in Cayman, but the cost is still exorbitant.
The issue of the existence of a world-class college in Cayman goes far beyond mere academics and economics.
Such an institution, in addition to serving our people, would bring prestige and, ideally, renown to these islands. It is an opportunity to invite our most visionary leaders and thinkers to the planning table.