Officials at the University College of the Cayman Islands say they feel a bit invisible these days.
They can’t seem to get the government to return their calls.
When the UCCI board of governors meets on Wednesday, Jan. 31, chairman Lemuel Hurlston will tell its members that they continue to be ignored by the Ministry of Education and by the Office of the Solicitor General.
In his statement, which is part of the meeting’s publicized agenda items, Mr. Hurlston says requests for information on disputed language in the pending ownership and purchase agreement – under which the college operates – have been met with no response. Mr. Hurlston says a letter was sent to the solicitor general on Dec. 14, via the Ministry of Education, asking for a determination on whether language requiring approval from the education ministry for any program changes the college wishes to make contradicts UCCI’s authority as laid out in the University Law. UCCI officials say giving the ministry such authority would keep the college from receiving the international accreditation it is seeking.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Mr. Hurlston said. “I’ve gotten no feedback.”
A follow-up request “to determine delivery” was recently sent, his statement says.
“It comes to no surprise to me,” he said. “The solicitor general is a very busy office. I guess we have to patiently wait our turn.”
When it comes to the Ministry of Education, however, he is less forgiving. It has been more than eight months since the current government was elected. And although the college’s board of governors has made repeated requests, Mr. Hurlston said, no ministry official has yet met with them.
“That is quite frustrating,” he said. “Under the previous minister, Tara Rivers, we had regular quarterly meetings. Since the new government, with our new minister, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, we’ve not even had an initial meeting. I just don’t know what’s happening there.”
Mr. Hurlston said the board submitted signed copies of its proposed ownership and purchase agreement to the ministry on Jan. 8, but there has been no response.
Requests for comment from both the Office of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Education were not answered.
The board’s frustration with the slow turning of the government’s wheels is also part of the reason it is seeking a new type of collaborative agreement with the International College of the Cayman Islands. Such an agreement has been talked about for years. Proponents say bringing the two schools together would provide more efficiency, more opportunities and it would place the schools on better footing to seek regional and international accreditation.
Earlier this month, the board’s administrative and academic committee approved a proposal for a federation agreement between the two schools. Board member Tom Simpson said the move was made after two years of unsuccessful efforts to get lawmakers to approve a merger. He said UCCI has the authority to approve a federation agreement on its own.
“We’re just trying to move the ball along,” said Mr. Hurlston, noting that a more extensive connection between the two schools would continue to be pursued. “At the end of the day, the Cayman Islands government will make the determination.”
Although the board will discuss the proposed agreement at its meeting, Mr. Hurlston said he is not sure that it will take action.
“I expect the board to wait and see what we hear from the other side,” he said, referring to ICCI.
Mike Mannisto is chairman of the board of trustees for ICCI. He said he too thinks a full union of the two colleges is the ideal outcome of discussions about a merger that have gone on for years.
“We certainly welcome innovation and we salute UCCI for coming forward with this proposal,” Mr. Mannisto said. “More collaboration is great, but I think it’s good to discuss different types of models.”
Joining the two colleges, he said, would be beneficial in seeking higher accreditation. Both schools are currently accredited, either for specific programs or with entities that are not recognized by all universities.
“There is certainly strength in size and numbers,” Mr. Mannisto said, when it comes to being recognized by accrediting bodies. “I think having U.S. regional accreditation on the ground here is important.”
Having it would allow students to transfer from local two-year programs to four-year universities abroad more easily.
Mr. Mannisto said ICCI’s board of trustees will look closely at the federation proposal.
“We would welcome a meeting and have our board meet with the individuals driving the proposed model so we can continue to collaborate,” he said.