The University College of the Cayman Islands Board of Governors is moving ahead with efforts to secure better salaries for faculty and staff at the same time the school’s new president is laying out a revised vision for the institution.
President Stacy McAfee spent much of Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Governors outlining that vision, which was tied to a refocusing of the long-delayed five-year strategic plan for UCCI.
Originally set to be approved last spring, the strategic plan is now expected to be voted on by the board at its March meeting. Ms. McAfee has refocused the plan around what she is calling three main pillars: education, resources and economic impact.
“One of the things I’m trying to accomplish [is] a better understanding of what UCCI is becoming,” Ms. McAfee said.
She emphasized that the education component was based on a student-centered perspective. Part of being able to do that, she said, requires more information on the students themselves. Data gathering has been a weak point at UCCI, she said.
“We need rich data to inform our understanding of why students come to UCCI, what they hope to accomplish, how they are in fact progressing and achieving various goals,” she said.
Currently, she said, the school is looking at new systems that could provide the school with the necessary information. She expects additional personnel will be needed to handle that data.
“Today it’s just a very labor-intensive process to pull data,” Ms. McAfee said, adding that analyzing and correlating that data is even more difficult. “We need more resources that will inform the counseling and support we need to offer.”
Having such information is also necessary if the school wants international accreditation agencies to look at it seriously, she said.
When it comes to the resources aspect of the strategic plan, much of the focus is currently on obtaining a permanent agreement for funding a 5 percent cost of living allowance that was approved by the Cabinet last year for faculty and staff. The increase was retroactive to July 1, 2018. UCCI employees received that pay through Dec. 31, but negotiations are still in progress to secure funding for carrying the increase forward.
Board Chairman Anthony Ritch said he has been in discussions with the Ministry of Education and expects an agreement on that issue to be finalized in the coming days. But UCCI has additional salary requests beyond the cost of living increase.
“This is but one step and there is more to be done,” Mr. Ritch said.
The board is finalizing a purchase agreement that would request additional funding to bring faculty and staff salaries at UCCI in line with similar civil service jobs elsewhere in government. The job equivalencies are based upon a study the board requisitioned last year.
“By the end of March, I would expect us to formalize it,” Mr. Ritch said of the request, He’s hoping for approval for the increase by June.
President McAfee said the area of the strategic plan needing the most attention involves the economic impact of UCCI.
“I think the third pillar, the engine for economic development, the knowledge transfer piece, is an area we’re developing further,” she said.
It’s important, she added, that the Cayman community understands the important role UCCI plays in the local economy.
“We’re impacting the nation in a really big way,” she said. “Even those that don’t go to university receive a benefit from those that do.”
Much of the focus will be on expanding technical and vocational education and training, she said, as well as forming more public-private partnerships that will open career avenues for students. In her letter to the board, she said, “professional and continuing education offerings [need] to be more responsive to the needs of key industry sectors.”
If the plan is approved in March, Ms. McAfee said, it will only serve as a beginning.
“Then the hard work begins,” she said. “That’s when it’s really exciting. You’ll start to see UCCI emerge from the chrysalis.”