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The University Council of Jamaica was established by an Act of Parliament in 1987 as the national quality assurance body for tertiary education to ensure quality through the adoption and improvement of educational standards. The UCJ is a statutory body currently under the portfolio of the Minister of Education.

The membership of the governing body of the Council is drawn from the public and private sectors, professional bodies and societies and academic institutions, appointed by the Minister with whom the portfolio resides.  The UCJ is currently headed by Executive Director, Dr Yvonnette Marshall.  Previous Executive Director, Dr Ethley London headed the Council from its inception in 1987 until April of 2011.

The Council has assisted many tertiary institutions to develop and adopt a quality assurance culture.  It has also assisted two Colleges in their attainment of university status.  The UCJ registers institutions and this signifies that the institutions have met the minimum operating standards required for the conduct of a tertiary institution in Jamaica.  Once registered, institutions are eligible to submit their programmes for accreditation.  The UCJ effects programme accreditation.  As at March 2011, the UCJ has registered 50 tertiary institutions (public and private) that have met the stated criteria of educational quality. The Council also currently monitors 200 programmes which it has accredited, including 24 offered by 11 overseas institutions.

The milestones over the years have included:

  • 1991 – First registered institution;
  • 1991 – First locally accredited programme;
  • 1991 – Establishment of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education
  • 1992 – Publication of the first Directory of Jamaican Tertiary Institutions
  • 1995 – First overseas accredited programme
  • 1995 – First UCJ-Approved Degree
  • 1997 – Establishment of the first Board of Studies
  • 1997 – Establishment of the Credit Transfer Committee, later renamed the Tertiary Articulation Committee
  • 2000 – Publication of the first set of standards developed by a Board of Studies
  • 2003 – Launch of the Tertiary Qualifications Framework
  • 2004 – Launch of Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education Week
  • 2004 – Launch of the Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE)
  • 2006 – Launch of the Guidelines for the Accreditation of Short Courses

The UCJ has not only played a significant role in the development of quality assurance in tertiary education in Jamaica, but has also been represented on the Board of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), and the Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE). The UCJ currently maintains membership in both organisations.

In addition, over the years, the UCJ, as the leading quality assurance body in the English-speaking Caribbean, has assisted in the development of other quality assurance bodies within the region. The UCJ has conducted several seminars and workshops, and representatives from many of the CARICOM countries have visited Jamaica for attachment programmes at the UCJ.