By Dr Carlton Mills
The Turks and Caicos Islands Community College (TCICC) was established primarily to meet the educational and employment needs of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). This article is an attempt to show the growth of the TCICC over the years in an effort to realize these goals. Secondly, it will also attempt to show what should be the future role of the TCICC within the confinements of the current political and economic climate of the TCI.
Dr Carlton Mills is a graduate of Excelsior Community College and the University of the West Indies where he pursued his training in teacher education and Bachelors in History respectively. He is also a graduate of the University of London, Bristol and Sheffield where he pursued his Master’s and Doctorate in Education respectively. Dr Mills was appointed as Minister of Education in 2007 where he served until February 2009. Following the suspension of the TCI Constitution, he was invited by the governor to serve on the Advisory Council. He served for six months before resigning. Dr Mills is currently the chairman of the board of Governors of the TCI Community College. He is also the main editor of the recently published book “The History of the Turks and Caicos Islands”. He has written several articles for journals and chapters in other books and presented papers at various conferences in the region and in the UK.
Prior to September 2011, the TCICC offered a number of associate degree and certificate programmes in areas such as hospitality, business, computer science, electrical engineering, building technology, public sector management, school management just to name a few.
Recently, the institution introduced the associate degree programmes in primary and secondary education in collaboration with the Joint Board of Teacher Education, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. Prior to this all teacher training had to be sourced overseas. This is now a thing of the past.
Representatives from the Joint Board visit regularly to assess those teachers who are in training to ensure that they meet the necessary standards and requirements of the organization. These programmes were initially only offered at the campus on Grand Turk. From September 2011, we commenced the offering of the associate degree in primary education at the Provo Campus. Close to 30 persons are currently registered for this programme.
Over the years the practice in the TCI was to send students overseas to pursue higher education rather than build on the capacity at the local Community College. Despite efforts by some to realize this initiative, we continued to send our students overseas for political reasons at astronomical costs to the country.
It was argued that, if we introduce certain pertinent programmes at the College, for example, business and hospitality (two of the most sought-after programmes), this would reduced the number of students having to go overseas and also reduce costs significantly.
On an average, the government budgeted around $15 million annually for scholarships. A significant amount of this money could have gone to assist with the infrastructural development of the College and the promotion of more programmes.
Secondly, each student was granted on an average a scholarship for approximately $40,000 annually. Many of these students were sent overseas to pursue programmes that could be done at the College. Others were sent to institutions particularly in the Florida area that were not accredited.
In order to reduce costs and provide more opportunities for students who may find it difficult to go overseas, the TCICC has introduced the bachelor’s degree programmes in hospitality and tourism and business. These programmes are being franchised from the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica and are accredited by the University Council of Jamaica which is the main accrediting body in that country. This body also accredits programmes from the University of the West Indies and also the University of Technology.
Students can now pursue these accredited programmes at home at a cost of $4,000 annually compared to $40,000. Furthermore, the associate’s degrees that students are awarded by the college in business and hospitality articulate into these programmes. This means that it will only take a student after successfully completing their associate’s, two years to complete their bachelor’s. The College also plans to offer the bachelor’s in education through the same route in 2012.
The TCICC continues to receive an annual subvention from the government of the TCI. This is imperative as the institution is a government institution and the government has to still take some degree of responsibility for its sustainability. However, efforts have to be made to make the institution more financially stable in the current economic climate. In addition to increasing fees, we have to attract more international students. In order to do this, students will need accommodations. The institution is currently working with a private entity and the government in respect to this initiative for the Grand Turk Campus.
The TCICC currently has two campuses, Grand Turk and Providenciales. With the geographical layout of the islands comes its unique set of problems. This lends itself to added cost for the day to day operation of the campuses. As a result, we are currently exploring the possibility of using technology to reduce such cost through connecting the sites through video conferencing. This initiative is not only intended to reduce cost but to also help in bringing the campuses closer together.
The institution is also working with the Ministry of Labour and Immigration to ensure that persons who apply for work permits, permanent residence certificates (PRCs) and belongership must pursue the TCI studies course at the TCICC in order to gain some understanding of the history and culture of the country that they wish to live and work in.
When applying for a work permit, these individuals will have to provide evidence to the Ministry that they have completed the assigned course of study at the TCICC. They will also be required to pay a prescribed fee at the TCICC for the course and the examination. Persons residing in the TCI whose first language is not English will also be required to pursue a course in teaching English as a Second Language.
It is also being proposed that construction workers attend the institution to pursue a short course on the building codes of the TCI. These programmes are geared towards increasing student enrollment and also generating a regular source of income for the institution.
Now that the TCICC has commenced offering some undergraduate programmes and plans are being made to add to these in the future, it is imperative that lecturers at the TCICC, who only possess undergraduate qualifications, upgrade themselves to the next level.
It is also necessary that the institution work at becoming a research centre. This will enable it to apply for research grants and more so, develop its academic reputation locally and internationally where international researchers could visit and work in collaboration with the local faculty.
The TCICC has a great future ahead of it despite the current economic climate in which it operates. We have to continue to ensure that the delivery of quality education is first and foremost. We have to also continue our efforts to make the institution more financially self-sufficient. This will require the institution to look at more creative and innovative ways of increasing capacity and developing programmes to meet the needs of the country.
The Ministry of Education will also have a vital role to play in this respect. Ministry officials will have to ensure that in order to promote the programmes currently being offered at the TCICC, that funding is made available for deserving students. Furthermore, they will have to ensure that once programmes are being offered at the TCICC no students will be awarded scholarships to pursue such programmes overseas as was the case in the past.