Our Readers' Opinions
September 26, 2014
Associate Degrees: Widening opportunities for Vincentians

Fri, Sep 26, 2014

This article was first published in SEARCHLIGHT on Friday, August 13, 2010

by S Joel Warrican, Ph D

With the approach of the new academic year, there is a mood of excitement and anticipation at the SVG Community College. The College is poised to implement several of the initiatives that will make it a top class tertiary education institution in the region. For example, new programmes are being introduced to meet the educational and training needs of the country and new opening hours will be instituted to facilitate working individuals who want to upgrade their knowledge and skills or prepare for a new career path.{{more}}

Perhaps the most exciting innovation is the introduction of Associate Degrees in several areas. This move brings the College in line with what is currently happening in the community colleges within the region, and indeed extra-regionally. Vincentians can pursue Associate degrees at the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies in an evening programme, and full time at the Division of Technical and Vocational Education (DTVE). In fact, this coming academic year, all of the existing programmes being offered in the DTVE have been converted to Associate Degrees. This gives greater currency to these programmes, opening doors for individuals who obtain these qualifications. Like graduates from all of the community colleges in the Eastern Caribbean, holders of SVGCC Associate Degrees will be eligible to matriculate into the UWI, gaining advanced placement for some programmes of study.

Along with the Associate Degrees, the DTVE will provide opportunities for its graduates to be assessed for the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ). CVQs are CARICOM-recognised qualifications that allow recipients to be acknowledged as having marketable skills, hence making them employable as skilled CARICOM nationals across the region.

This trend of offering Associate Degrees, common across the region, has the potential to open other avenues of study to Vincentians. For example, with the traditional certificates offered previously, students applying to the UWI had to follow the four-year degree programmes, registering as part-time students for the first year, if they were accepted. With the Associate Degree, under an agreement made between the UWI and regional governments, applicants qualify to matriculate into the three-year degree programme. This is in harmony with what currently obtains in relation to Associate Degrees being offered at community colleges throughout the Eastern Caribbean and through the UWI Open Campus. These Associate Degrees basically conform to certain guidelines approved by the UWI, with some latitude for taking local needs into consideration.

Currently in countries that have been offering Associate Degrees for several years, students following certain programmes have benefited greatly in that, after an assessment by the UWI, they have been granted exemptions that translated into major reduction (sometimes up to one year) in the period of study towards a full bachelor’s degree. This possibility will now be open to individuals who take Associate Degrees at the SVGCC. Apart from the UWI, educational institutions in places such as the USA are also more receptive to Associate Degrees rather than certificates, since the Associate Degree reflects a model with which they are more familiar. In fact, in some US colleges, an Associate Degree may reduce the period of study towards a full bachelor’s degree by up to two years.

The SVGCC acknowledges concerns of some that the Associate Degrees offered are not accredited. However, on this issue, SVGCC is no different from any of the community colleges across the region; indeed, it is no different from the UWI Open Campus with its Associate Degree. Absence of accreditation does not mean that the Associate Degrees lack value, since students graduating with these degrees in countries across the region have been accepted into bachelor’s degree programmes regionally and internationally.

Recognising the importance of accreditation, though, some of the governments of the Eastern Caribbean have recently established national accreditation bodies in their countries. It is of note that SVG – home of the recently amalgamated SVGCC, now the youngest community college in the region – has joined its counterparts in setting up its accreditation body. As with the other countries in the region, the accreditation body will be working closely with the College to have its programmes accredited. Accreditation is a process, and SVG is on par with other countries which have been offering Associate Degrees for many years, in that they are all at the stage of seeking accreditation for their programmes.

The SVGCC is extremely proud of this accomplishment of being able to offer Associate Degrees at this time. This brings the College in line with modern trends; facilitates matriculation into the UWI and other regional and extra-regional universities; and also helps to provide Vincentians with recognised marketable qualifications across CARICOM. The College is pleased to be offering these programmes in the upcoming academic year, and is working towards expanding on these offerings in the near future.

Dr Warrican was, at the time of publication of this article, the Director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College.