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The Associate Degree from the SVGCC: A qualification of value

The Associate Degree from the SVGCC: A qualification of value

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by Nigel Scott

Director, SVGCC

Much has been said recently about the Associate Degree programmes from the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College. In 2010, when these programmes were introduced, Dr Joel Warrican, then director of the SVGCC made it clear what the value of the Associate Degree was when compared with the traditional CAPE or A Level qualifications. Last year September, this was reiterated.{{more}} Further, it was made very clear that neither the SVGCC nor its homegrown programmes were accredited. At no point have students or parents ever been told by the College that the Associate Degree programmes are accredited. What we have always insisted is that the Associate Degree can be used to matriculate (gain entry) into university programmes and in some cases students can get Advanced Placement (course credits or exemptions). Also we indicated at that time what the College is doing to achieve accreditation.

There, however, remains confusion in some persons’ minds as to what is accreditation. Not being accredited does not mean that the programmes cannot get you anywhere and will not get you time off at university. There is a fundamental flaw in any argument that says that a programme that is not accredited is of no value and can get you nowhere. Just ask the hundreds of Vincentians who graduated from the University of the West Indies prior to its accreditation a few years ago (St Augustine 2011, Mona 2012, Cave Hill 2013, Open Campus 2013).

So, what have the graduates of the SVGCC Associate Degree programmes done with their Associate Degrees? We do not have all of the stories of successful students matriculating to higher learning using the Associate Degree, but these are a few of them.

In 2013, of the 10 students who pursued the UWI Level One programme (first year BSc in Social Sciences) at the SVGCC, five had completed the Associate Degree programmes at the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies and the Division of Technical and Vocational Education. In 2014, of the five students in this programme, three came from the Associate Degree programme. In 2015, of the nine students in this programme, three completed successfully an Associate Degree programme at the SVGCC. Students from both CAPE and Associate Degree programmes matriculate into this Level One BSc Social Sciences programme and get credits for courses completed. What limits our students is not the Associate Degree, but rather their overall GPA and the necessary financing to pursue further studies.

Currently, there are 16 students pursuing the BSc Computer Science degree from University of Technology, Jamaica (UTECH) and six of them are graduates of the Associate Degree in Information Technology from the SVGCC.

Of the 35 students currently pursuing the BEd in Social Studies Education at the SVGCC from the UWI Cave Hill, 26 completed an Associate Degree in Teacher Education at the SVGCC. The others completed the older Certificate in Teacher Education from the SVG Teachers’ College. This is the third such BEd programme that the SVGCC is running on franchise from the UWI, Cave Hill. All of the students must complete either an Associate Degree in Teacher Education or the older Certificate. Their Associate Degree is a 60 credit programme and they complete the BEd after doing another 60 credits. Without the Associate Degree, they would have to do 90 or 120 credits, depending on their starting point.

Last year, yet another student was accepted to Humber College in Canada with an Associate Degree from SVGCC. After their assessment, she was granted nine courses off her Bachelor’s programme. That means she will complete in less than the usual three years.

Earlier this month I met the parents of a past student of the Division of Technical and Vocational Education. They had just returned from settling in their son at UWI, Cave Hill. They were very excited that after initially being accepted to do a three-year degree in Hospitality Studies earlier this year, his final transcript and successful completion of the Hospitality Associate Degree had led to him now being accepted to complete his degree in only two years. This facility is available to any student who successfully completes the Applied Associate Degree in Hospitality Studies, Travel and Tourism or Culinary Arts at the Division of Technical and Vocational Education, with at least the minimum required GPA. These programmes were developed by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the University of the West Indies and are available regionally.

Another of our Associate Degree graduates was recently accepted to do a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice at UWI on the strength of her Associate Degree from the SVGCC.

Last year, Professor Cobley, Chair of the Board of Undergraduate Studies at UWI, made it very clear that the UWI accepts the Associate Degree from the SVGCC as normal matriculation to UWI. He further pointed out that in some cases, Advanced Placement was also possible. The requirement is for a certain minimum GPA to be obtained in each case.

We have not sat back awaiting accreditation. The SVGCC has signed Articulation agreements with UWI, UTECH, Munroe College and Jamaica Theological Seminary, among others. We are currently working on even more such arrangements. These Articulation agreements will ensure that these institutions will accept our students without question, regardless of whether the programmes are accredited or not. They ensure acceptability and portability of SVGCC certifications.

Are the SVGCC Associate Degrees accredited at this point of the Accreditation Cycle? No. The SVGCC is seeking Institutional Accreditation and is currently being visited by the National Accreditation Board. The Accreditation Cycle is a lengthy one and can take several years. In the interim, our Articulation Agreements ensure our students matriculate into institutions of Higher Learning and often receive Advanced Placement.

Can the SVGCC Associate Degree get you a job or into institutions of Higher Learning with time or courses off? Yes. Our Associate Degree graduates are employed all over St Vincent and the Grenadines and have been accepted by universities all over the region and in several other parts of the world.

The SVGCC is not unique in this regard. All of the OECS Community Colleges are in the same position, offering programmes that are not accredited. However, our graduates are accepted into university on the strength of the Articulation Agreements we have and the quality of our programmes.

This is exactly what the UWI did. Many of us graduated from the UWI before it had formal accreditation. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, all pursued their programmes at UWI before the campuses received their accreditation status. But the UWI had articulation and other arrangements in place all over the world, so that its graduates could move seamlessly into post-graduate programmes on the strength of their UWI Bachelor’s degree.

It is my hope that the Vincentian public will understand that the SVGCC has made a clear case for why its Associate Degree programmes are of value. The SVGCC still has a long way to go, but we are on the right path. We need the support and encouragement and helpful criticism of all citizens to keep us moving in the right direction. The last thing we need is a student body that is stirred into unnecessary panic by inaccuracies in the information received. We will continue to work with the Ministry of Education, the National Accreditation Board and all other willing stakeholders to strengthen our structures and systems for the benefit of all Vincentians.

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