Hundreds of students who have completed associate degrees at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College and those currently enrolled there are now learning that their programmes may not be accredited by any institution outside of the country.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace broke the news this week that the two-year diploma, which is into its sixth year, is not accredited by the University of the West Indies (UWI) or any recognised tertiary institution.
“For the record the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College is not on the UWI list of accepted tertiary institutions in any of the campus territories. Not accepted in Jamaica, not accepted in Trinidad not accepted in Barbados,” Eustace told a media conference on Wednesday.
“This means that if you have an associate degree from the Community College and you wish to go to UWI, the university will not give any credit to your degree. You will not get into the school on the basis of that qualification, and you will not get time off as a result of having an associate degree,” he said, speaking on the issue for a second time, after mentioning it on his radio programme on Monday.
The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the only time the associate degree becomes accredited is after accreditation has been granted and this “therefore cannot be applied retroactively”.
Over 1,000 students are said to have registered for or completed the associate degree programme at the SVGCC, which is offered in 16 subject areas.
I-Witness News understands that just over 200 students are currently enrolled for the programme, and many would graduate in a few months with certificates that Eustace said “are not worth the paper they are written on”.
He said that students have put in a lot of time and effort into making a better life for themselves and parents have spent thousands of dollars in helping their children do this, but all this will be wasted time and monies in the absence of proper accreditation of the Community College.
He further said that any post-secondary institution worth its salt that wishes to confer degrees and associate degrees on its students must apply for and receive accreditation for those degrees.
He explained that the application by the institution, in this case the Community College, must not only be done locally, but must be done with universities regionally and internationally, which they expect their students to attend.
From the time the college was expanded in 2009 to include offering associate degrees, the accreditation of the college and its programmes became a must, Eustace told the press conference.
He told I-Witness News separately on Wednesday that when opposition senator, Vynnette Frederick contacted the Community College on the matter, she was rebuffed by someone whom he described as “being rude”.
He said the Community College had misled the students into believing that the programme was accredited by posting information on its website.
“The college website does nothing to explain accreditation and its importance. It does not say that its associate degrees are not accredited. It advertises that it has accredited programme and when you call, they direct you to the UWI franchise arrangement which they have with St. Augustine campus only, and only for one level of one course — BSc in social sciences. So the website misleads you into thinking that all of the courses are accredited…
“This is not true. When you ask what is the state of accreditation, the school says they are working on it,” Eustace pointed out.
“This is not a revolution, this is revolting and an insult to our youth,” Eustace said.
When asked at a press conference on Tuesday about the situation, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said he had been asked about the development on Monday, but didn’t have an opportunity to find out about it from the college, since the director was not available when he called.
“I would expect that what is the normal thing is that the Community College, which is authorised by law to issue associate degrees and even degrees, that they will make sure that their authorisation which they have by law, they would double check it too with the Accreditation Board,” Gonsalves said.
“I would expect that that would be the normal thing to do. … If there is any truth in this, that a matter which can be easily corrected,” he said, but did not say how it is to be corrected.
Diplomas are generally not accredited retroactively.
The development comes even as the Ministry of Education and the National Accreditation Board has repeatedly warned Vincentians to ensure that tertiary level institutions are accredited before enrolling for their programmes.
“When it comes to education at that level, we have to be sure that the certification that is offered is conferred by an accredited institution, whether this institution is based in St Vincent and the Grenadines or abroad…” Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist said on the issue in May.
I-Witness News was unsuccessful, up to the time of publishing this article, in its attempts to get a response from the College.