The University College of the Cayman Islands began what is expected to be a years-long process Monday with a day-and-a-half event aimed at laying out a path for seeking accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The move is seen as the next major step in UCCI’s evolution and is expected to raise its profile in the region and around the globe.
“This is the nation building work that we have committed to doing,” UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee said, addressing a gathering that included the university’s faculty and staff along with members of the Board of Governors, community supporters and students. They were tasked with charting a course to address the requirements for accreditation by the U.S.-based body. Taking on the task, she said, “shows our desire to adopt and reflect international standards of excellence in everything we do.”
Taking this move has been talked about in the past, but seeking such accreditation is an arduous task that McAfee said will involve the efforts of everyone at the university.
The process began Monday with a series of tightly organized workshops designed to define the elements necessary for UCCI to meet the SACS requirements and establish a framework for achieving them. Groups of 10 faculty and staff members will tackle the 14 principles of SACS accreditation, from such things as operating with integrity and defining the school’s mission to institutional planning, educational policies, financial resources and transparency.
Mark Scotland, chairman of the Board of Governors, was one of the workshop participants. He also addressed the group at the start of the event.
“We’re very proud today to embark on this process of seeking accreditation,” Scotland said, adding that achieving that goal would validate the quality of a UCCI education and “give the government and our partners’ confidence in continuing to fund UCCI.”
Scotland also relayed the support of Minister of Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, saying she regretted not being able to attend the event.
Interim Provost and Vice President J.D. Mosley-Matchett said there are other accreditations UCCI could pursue, but the international recognition a SACS affiliation offers is the best fit for the university. Although she expects the initial application to be completed by the end of 2021, the complex accreditation process is expected to take three to four years to complete, she said.
UCCI already holds accreditation from the Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities in the United Kingdom and the Kansas-based International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Membership in SACS would align UCCI with such schools as Georgia State University, Alabama State University and Florida International University. It would bring greater opportunity for collaboration between UCCI and such schools, including scholarly research.
“Accreditation by SACS will once and for all dispel any doubt about the quality of education at UCCI,” Mosley-Matchett said. “The result will elevate UCCI’s profile, both locally and globally.”
McAfee said the school will have to do such things as document student achievement, ensure there are appropriate levels of staffing and support, and encourage ongoing professional development for its personnel, including fostering scholarship and research.
The process, she said will strengthen, but not change the fundamental character of the university.
“We strive to become even better year over year and do it in a way that is relevant to the Cayman Islands,” she said, while ensuring that “the programs offered reflect the needs of our nation.”