WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE

Jamaica 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Winston Adams, JP, Executive Chairman of the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), on the university's illustrious history, its upcoming strategies, and Caribbean Knowledge City.

Winston Adams
BIOGRAPHY
Winston Adams, JP, is Founder and Executive Chairman of UCC and its subsidiaries. In 1987, he was the Caribbean recipient of the prestigious USAID Scholarship Award to study chemical engineering at Howard University in the US. He has an MBA from Florida International University (FIU) and a doctorate in business administration with an emphasis on strategic leadership and disruptive innovation. He is a Justice of the Peace and has had a distinguished career as an entrepreneur, particularly in the field of higher education. He has worked with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Petrojam, as a chemical (process) engineer and lectured part-time with the University of Technology. He also pioneered the establishment of the Institute of Management Sciences. Adams has received various awards and recognition for his work.

What was the vision behind launching the university, and what are the highlights of your journey?

We are currently celebrating our 25th anniversary and will celebrate until the opening of our new facility on our main campus in spring 2018. When we started, thousands of young Jamaicans and high school graduates were leaving the country to seek better educational opportunities abroad. At the time, there was only one university in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies, and access to tertiary education was, therefore, limited in the country. It was even more difficult for working adults to go to the only university at the time; it was just not convenient or flexible. We lost many adults and working people who sought additional educational opportunities abroad. We saw that as an opportunity to establish a non-traditional post-secondary type institution, which led to the establishment of the then Institute of Management Sciences (IMS). From there, we started to offer degrees and diplomas to these adults, largely on a part-time basis, and created a vehicle for them to access quality post-secondary education. It was successful and grew rapidly, such that after 10 years we acquired the largest private post-secondary institution, the Institute of Management and Production (IMP), which had been around since 1976. We competed in a very competitive bid and were successful in acquiring it. The merger in 2004 resulted in the formation of the first university college in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the UCC.

How are you evolving in terms of strategy?

We originally focused only on working professionals, and the main focus is still there. That was the model for IMS too, with working professionals making up 90-95% of the student body and the remaining 5-10% being high school graduates studying on a full-time basis. We still have that model, though we look to change it, especially with the physical expansion where we will have more conducive facilities at our main campus and will be able to provide for more students on a full-time basis. Our mission is to reach out to a larger number of high school graduates seeking full-time studies. The kind of technology we are embarking on will infuse our curriculum with programs that are more relevant and adaptive to younger students leaving high school. We also continue to build additional connections with universities abroad. The Caribbean has huge potential, and Jamaica, in particular, is well positioned to be a destination to export higher education.

What are your plans for to set up a knowledge city in Jamaica?

We seek to establish Caribbean Knowledge City (CKC) or University Town in Kingston or in St. Ann; we have a comprehensive business plan with the government of Jamaica, with significant support from the UDC & JAMPRO. It will be a major physical infrastructure that could be part of the planned Caymanas development or in Saint Ann. CKC will be developed in partnership with the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), which will develop some 700ha in Kingston. CKC will attract and house international students, as well as attract high-quality universities from the UK and the US, similar to the model in Dubai. We aim to have up to 5,000 students in the first year. CKC will be a larger and more comprehensive structure that will not only look at the traditional delivery or higher education but research and innovative e-products and commercialization as a true knowledge city. CHEC will hopefully break ground as early as late 2018. It is important for Jamaica to ensure we have greater access to higher education and quality education, and all of these efforts are part of this vision. That is our prerequisite for a country if we are to achieve the goal of becoming a developed nation. After all, this is part of our Vision 2030, and increasing access to higher education and developing human capital is the key to this goal.