UTech comes clean

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a spe­cial­ist on cul­ture and devel­op­ment. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.

WON­DERS NEVER cease! Pro­fes­sor Colin Gyles, act­ing pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, has pub­licly ad­mit­ted that a lot of aca­demic pro­grammes be­ing of­fered by the in­sti­tu­tion are not ac­cred­ited. At least “60 cour­ses of study,” ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle by An­dre Poyser pub­lished in The Gleaner on Fri­day, Novem­ber 4! Con­fes­sion is good for the soul. And dis­clo­sure of un­pleas­ant truths is good for the well­be­ing of pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions.

UTech has come off its high horse and is now frontally ad­dress­ing the long-out­stand­ing is­sue of non-ac­cred­i­ta­tion of so many of its course of­fer­ings. Last year, I was much abused be­cause of a col­umn I wrote, ‘Univer­sity fi stone dog in the UK?’, which was pub­lished on April 26. This was the of­fend­ing para­graph which drew the wrath of UTech ad­min­is­tra­tors, alumni, cur­rent stu­dents and the wider pub­lic:

“In­stead of spe­cial­is­ing in pro­fes­sional vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion, poly­tech­nics be­gan to du­pli­cate the of­fer­ings of tra­di­tional uni­ver­si­ties. I sup­pose it’s sim­i­lar to what the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy has been do­ing in re­cent years: repli­cat­ing prac­ti­cally all the pro­fes­sional pro­grammes of­fered by the Univer­sity of the West Indies. In­ci­den­tally, UTech hasn’t even ap­plied for ac­cred­i­ta­tion of its den­tal pro­gramme! And the first grad­u­ates are about to be let loose on an un­sus­pect­ing world.”

UN­WEL­COME MES­SAGE

As the bearer of bad news, I was im­me­di­ately at­tacked. It didn’t mat­ter that the un­wel­come mes­sage was the truth. The first vol­ley came from a very big gun, the said same Pro­fes­sor Gyles. His eva­sive re­sponse to my col­umn was pub­lished in The Gleaner on Tues­day, April 28 with the in­flam­ma­tory head­line ‘Carolyn Cooper and the UWI car­tel’. I sus­pect that the head­line wasn’t Pro­fes­sor Gyles’, but the work of a clever edi­tor, fan­ning the flames of con­tention.

The clear im­pli­ca­tion of that hos­tile head­line was that the Univer­sity of the West Indies, as a sup­plier of ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices, was re­strict­ing com­pe­ti­tion and at­tempt­ing to push UTech out of the mar­ket. And since I worked at UWI, I must be part of the grand con­spir­acy. I couldn’t pos­si­bly be a con­cerned cit­i­zen who wanted to en­sure that the pub­lic knew the state of af­fairs at UTech and the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the den­tists they might en­counter.

Here’s the essence of Pro­fes­sor Gyles’ round­about re­sponse to my col­umn: “I con­sider the state­ment un­for­tu­nate be­cause it gives an in­ac­cu­rate pic­ture of the value and cred­i­bil­ity of the work that UTech, and CAST, its pre­cur­sor, have been pro­vid­ing since 1958.” Of course, I was not ques­tion­ing the “value and cred­i­bil­ity” of all the aca­demic pro­grammes of­fered by UTech and CAST. Only the un­ac­cred­ited den­tal pro­gramme. And if you read be­tween the lines of Pro­fes­sor Gyles’ re­sponse, you would see that he didn’t ac­tu­ally re­fute my state­ment that the den­tal pro­gramme was not ap­pro­pri­ately ac­cred­ited.

THE PLAIN TRUTH

In a fol­low-up col­umn, ‘UTech deputy pres­i­dent beat­ing his gums’, pub­lished in The Gleaner on May 3, I stated the plain truth: “What Pro­fes­sor Gyles fails to ad­mit is that UTech is not ac­cred­ited by The Caribbean Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Au­thor­ity for Ed­u­ca­tion in Medicine and other Health Pro­fes­sions (CAAM-HP). As stated on its web­site, CAAMHP ‘is the legally con­sti­tuted body es­tab­lished in 2003 un­der the aegis of the Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM), em­pow­ered to de­ter­mine and pre­scribe stan­dards and to ac­credit pro­grammes of med­i­cal, den­tal, vet­eri­nary and other health pro­fes­sions ed­u­ca­tion on be­half of the con­tract­ing par­ties in CARICOM.”

In­stead of ap­ply­ing for re­gional ac­cred­i­ta­tion of its den­tal pro­gramme by the legally con­sti­tuted body, UTech kept on in­sist­ing that ‘recog­ni­tion’ by a num­ber of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional bod­ies was a vi­able al­ter­na­tive. The dean of the Col­lege of Oral Sciences at UTech, Dr Irv­ing McKen­zie, wrote an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in The Gleaner on May 4 with the up­beat head­line, ‘Ja­maica pro­duces world-class den­tists’. He as­serted that, “Con­trary to views ex­pressed re­cently in the me­dia, the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) has made the strate­gic de­ci­sion to en­sure that grad­u­ates of the Col­lege of Oral Health Sciences are qual­i­fied ac­cord­ing to world-class stan­dards.”

COLO­NIAL MEN­TAL­ITY

As it turns out, these ‘world­class stan­dards’ were all set by US in­sti­tu­tions. The clear im­pli­ca­tion was that these stan­dards were far su­pe­rior to those of the CARICOM ac­cred­it­ing body. It’s the same old colo­nial men­tal­ity. What­ever comes from ‘for­eign’ must be su­pe­rior to the home-grown prod­uct. I don’t know if the den­tal pro­gramme is one of those for which UTech is now seek­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion. I cer­tainly hope so. Ja­maica needs far more den­tists than we cur­rently have. But they all need to be grad­u­ates of an ac­cred­ited in­sti­tu­tion.

A few months ago, I went to a house party and met a young woman who seemed rather hos­tile. I didn’t think I had met her be­fore so I couldn’t un­der­stand her at­ti­tude. I de­cided to try to fig­ure out what the prob­lem was. It turned out that she was a stu­dent in the UTech den­tal pro­gramme. She had read my col­umns and con­cluded that I was un­der­min­ing the pro­gramme and de­valu­ing the de­gree she was about to get.

Yu see mi dy­ing trial! In­stead of be­ing grate­ful that I was ex­pos­ing the is­sue of nonac­cred­i­ta­tion, this stu­dent was an­gry with me. But her anger was mis­placed. It should have been di­rected at the UTech ad­min­is­tra­tors who have been know­ingly of­fer­ing an un­ac­cred­ited pro­gramme. Jack­ass seh di world no level.

I

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