To the SBCS community,
CNC3 recently broadcast an interview that centered on our view that the restructured administration of the GATE programme would be a disservice to education in our country. Since then, the interview has generated a number of comments that, upon review, speak to much concern on the subject at hand: the lack of GATE access to non-accredited institutions.
Only snippets of my interview were broadcast; owing to this, and the growing concerns being expressed by both current and past students of SBCS, I want to clarify exactly the points I was attempting to convey.
Clarifying our identity: Who we are
SBCS began operation in 1987; some 19 years before the current iteration of the GATE programme was introduced in 2006. Within that period, the majority of our development was accomplished, with three of our four campuses being established in that 19-year span. SBCS was created not because of or for GATE, but for our learners.
In fact, over our 30-year existence we have graduated over 6,000 learners, many of whom are successfully employed locally and internationally. They each hold qualifications from a number of our renowned foreign partner universities and awarding bodies (University of London, University of Greenwich, Heriot-Watt University, University of Sunderland, University of Leicester, ACCA, CIPS, BTEC HND etc.), and each of those qualifications is internationally accredited and globally respected.
This brings me to the next point …
Clarifying our status: Institutional Accreditation versus Registration
Like all tertiary education providers, SBCS is registered with the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) and we were among the first private institutes to do so. Once registered, ALL of our transnational programmes and foreign awarding bodies went through the process of being recognised by ACTT and are thus listed on their compendium. This was a precondition for GATE.
Accreditation, however, only applies to local programmes. Thus to become an accredited institute, one needs to have a local ACTT-approved programme, and successfully graduate a cohort from said programme before applying to become accredited.
As a registered institution, we are continually evaluated by ACTT against their standards to ensure that our programmes and services are aligned to their requirements of those operating in the local tertiary education sector. Moreover, each one of our programmes had to undergo rigorous assessment by the ACTT that included a market case/justification for the demand for the provision of the programmes. We were successful for all the programmes currently ACTT-recognised within our portfolio and therefore have no reason to believe that our programmes do not meet the country’s developmental needs.
As part of our GATE agreement, we are accountable to the Ministry of Education and the Funding & Grants Administration Division. Even further, our programmes, services and premises are also evaluated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) in the United Kingdom and other international accreditation bodies to ensure that we maintain their standards, as well as those of our foreign partner universities and awarding bodies.
Clarifying our current position: GATE Funding Access
At this point I would like to address the concerns of our learners who are currently on our GATE-funded programmes, by listing here pertinent details of official correspondence received from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT), dated August 15, 2016:
What does this mean?
For new students who were registered before August 2016, you will receive funding through to the completion of your programme, once you adhere to the stipulations of your GATE agreement. For new students registered after August 2016, your funding will cease from July 2017. However, we have expended great efforts to enhance the education financing options currently available to our students. As well, our in-house payment plans have been adjusted accordingly to make the tranches of payments more practical and feasible given the state of the economy.
Clarifying our future: The way forward
Of statements made that we are “closing down”, these are exaggerated and erroneous.
The changes to the administration of GATE funding will result in some measure of consolidation, and yes, there will be some adjustments, which we have been gradually making over the past two years. But these adjustments have been towards us continuing to deliver quality service to our learners, and continuing to strive for excellence in the programmes we offer and the services we provide.
Regardless the changing landscape before us, we will hold true to our corporate mantra:
“At SBCS, we have but one overarching goal, which is to deliver an excellent service to our students; at a profit, if we can, at a loss if we must, but always excellence!”
Dr. Robin R. Maraj