Ministry signs agreement with UCCI

The dust-up between the Ministry of Education and the University College of the Cayman Islands is not over, but on Wednesday, UCCI’s board of governors was presented with a signed copy of an ownership and purchase agreement it had been asking for. The agreement essentially provides the college with the government-supplied portion of its funding, roughly $4 million of its $7.5 million annual budget.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said board chairman Lemuel Hurlston. “It was good news.”

In the proposed agreement sent to the ministry in September, the board eliminated language that had appeared in several previous agreements that gave the ministry final say in course and program changes. UCCI officials said this compromised the independence of the college and would be an impediment to obtaining the international accreditation it plans to seek.

The ministry initially approved the proposed agreement, with minor changes unrelated to the language that had been eliminated, and both the Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly approved the agreement in October. In December, the Ministry of Education requested that the language be reinserted before it would sign off on the document.

Since then, the two bodies have been in conflict over the issue.

Despite getting the signed copy of the agreement on Wednesday, Mr. Hurlston said he does not believe the problem has been put to rest.

“I think we still have to resolve that question,” he said, “but at least we’ve got a signed agreement. We’ve got something to use to move forward.”

During its meeting, the board approved a proposal to form a federation agreement with the International College of the Cayman Islands. The two entities have long talked about combining forces. Board member Tom Simpson was given the task of presenting the proposal to ICCI’s board of trustees at its next meeting.

Mr. Simpson said the federation agreement would allow cooperation between the two campuses in terms of course coordination and jointly seeking accreditation from an international body. The move to create the agreement 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.

Mr. Simpson also spearheaded a move to send a proposed mission statement for the college back to committee in order to include more specific information on academic standards at the college. The statement is part of a five-year strategic plan that is expected to be approved this spring and Mr. Simpson was concerned that its call for the highest academic standards in the Cayman Islands might end up shutting out some lower-performing students.

“We’ve got to make sure that everyone who wants tertiary education on the island has a place here,” he said.

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