The History of the University of Technology, Jamaica: The Multiple Faces of UTech

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       Napoleon Hill, an established author, once said “Strength and growth only come through continuous effort and struggle”. It’s the human condition to desire more. Whether it be for one’s self or for the people around you, ambition is the driving force behind many of the advancements human beings enjoy today. Tertiary education – the feasibility, availability and sustainability thereof – is one of the products of this basic instinct of betterment.

        Mr. Reginald S. Anderton, a past principal of the Kingston Technical High School (KTHS 1947-1949), was one of such ambitious individuals. He was first to comment on the need for further advancement of technical skills beyond the secondary level.  Much like a caste system, technical education at that time was seen as less important that its agricultural counterpart. The economy offered very little support in secondary education, much less in anything beyond that. Before 1939, there was little to no need for craftsmen equipped with technical skills, clerical professions were much more viable. Numerous debates in parliament were sparked by the Hon. Dr. Ivan Lloyd, Minister of Education and Social Welfare fought for the implementation of technical schools. He wished to the technical schools offer subjects in engineering, chemistry, dress designing, drawing, etc. so that after his completion of the secondary level, “no doors would be closed to him.”

        The Jamaican government had then decided in 1955, to establish a technical college. The United Kingdom Secretary of State for the colonies approved the plan and recommended that the college be developed as a regional technical college to serve the Western Caribbean. Detailed planning continued throughout 1957 and a grant was given towards the first stage of development for the college.

       Thus, the Jamaica Institute of Technology was born. Doors opened on March 31st, 1958 with 50 full-time students, 27 of them being residential. The site was on the outskirts of Kingston, a mile away from the University of the West Indies. The aim was to satisfy, in the shortest amount of time, the qualification of skilled craftsmen and to enable further learning in technological studies to be taken at levels similar to more established colleges in the UK.

       The success of the University, from conception to execution, is greatly in debt to Alistair Thomson, a German national, who established the college and was its first principal. When he arrived in 1954 and inherited the KTHS, he found it a disorganized and his dedication and ambition, brought it up to standard and sparked a national recognition for higher education. He led the mission in the transformation of the Farm Colleges, the site that hosted the Jamaica School of Agriculture, into a Technical College until its official opening in March of 1958.

       When classes begun, construction and refurbishing was still underway. The first students to the college doubled as staff as well. Six women in the Institutional Management Group and young men in the Handicraft Teachers Programme specially selected by the Ministry of Education pioneered the courses we benefit from today. Many of the tutors were part-time volunteers. The initial start up of this initiative was rocky, what with funding, construction, the establishment of a meaningful curriculum, etc. Dormitories were built to facilitate students that hailed from outside of Kingston. Over the years, these buildings have been added to, built on and refurbished to be the outstanding foundation for the many faculties that now make up the University.

      The name of the institute was changed to the College of Arts, Science and Technology (C.A.S.T)  in 1959 as it assimilated into the College of Arts, Science and Technology Scheme of 1959.

      The institution was formally given University status on September 1, 1995 and renamed the University of Technology, Jamaica. Approved by parliament on June 8,1999, it was signed into the law by the Governor General on June 29, 1999. Academics offered and developed by the University are fashioned from the English Polytechnic System with emphasis on work-based learning, flexibility of approach and professional linkages.

      As the decades passed, the University of Technology, Jamaica has combated the odds and thrived in the cultivating of professional and highly functional citizens through the teachings of respect, integrity, team spirit, innovation, service and accountability. The University continues to be committed to its mission – the holistic development of their students, being the pioneers in facilitating excellence through knowledge.

 

Kriss-Ann Haughton

USU Editorial Committee

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