Opinion: A salesman’s journey

POSTED: 01/20/13 7:50 PM

The presentation by the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) in a Central Committee came across as a salesman’s journey designed to sign up new clients.
We hear that National Alliance MP Lloyd Richardson took the initiative for the presentation. Richardson is an alumnus of this university. Other alumni are Finance Minister Roland Tuitt and his policy advisor Xavier Blackman. They both attended the presentation together with among others pastor Royston Philbert. The University is based on the principles of the Seventh Day Adventists Church.
We thought it rather peculiar that, when a university from Trinidad and Tobago comes to St. Maarten to sell its wares, no representatives from the University of St. Martin were invited. We would think that universities are looking for cooperation, not for competition. Our university is working together with the University of the Netherlands Antilles, the Hanze University and Monroe. But apparently, the USC wants to go its own way.
Not surprisingly, the USC-representatives touted their extremely low tuition fees – less than a third of the costs at American or European universities. That brought to mind this piece of wisdom MP Leroy de Weever once offered in a meeting of the old Island council. We don’t remember the subject, but we’ll never forget this observation: “The Chinese say cheap no good, good no cheap.”
Interestingly, the USC boasts that it is listed as “accredited and approved” at the Dutch accrediting agency Nuffic. We’d like to point out that Nuffic is not an accreditation agency. It is, as it explains on its web site, “a Dutch organization for international cooperation in higher education.”
Nuffic’s code of conduct “guarantees the quality of higher education to foreign students.” It also evaluates foreign diplomas.
The USC wants St. Maarten to recognize it as a fully accredited institution. That poses a problem, given the fact that St. Maarten does not have an accreditation organization. In that respect, one may well wonder about the scientific education at USC. On its web site, the university states that is views “truth as coming from God.” No wonder that its biology major puts the emphasis on zoology and not on anthropology. That would make a few things awkward to explain.
The USC was registered at the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago on November 14, 2004. This council, established on March 18, 2004, announced seven years later, in 2011 the first accredited institutions: the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West-Indies, and the University of Trinidad and Tobago. The USC obtained “the status of institutional accreditation” on May 21, 2012 – less than a year ago. The council never accredited the predecessor of the USC, the Caribbean Union College.
We’re sure that the good people at the University of the Southern Caribbean are offering education to the best of their abilities. But we are not so enthusiast about the way this university is now fishing in St. Maarten’s waters for new students.
After all, our country’s market for students that will follow higher education is limited. Students are now going to the Netherlands, to Europe and also elsewhere to follow their dreams. The University of St. Martin is located straight across from that building where one day – in the distant future – a large part of our civil service will go to work. It is an institution that needs our support in many ways. It is cheaper to send students to Trinidad and Tobago, or so we hear. But wouldn’t it even be – if not cheaper – more effective to strengthen the local university? Just our thought for the weekend.

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