Proposed College Act Amendments Outlined

December 8, 2014

Minister of Education and Economic Development Dr. Grant Gibbons highlighted the proposed amendments to the Bermuda College Act of 1974 in the House of Assembly on Friday, with the goal of preparing the College for its accreditation review, set for March 2015.

Dr. Gibbons said, “The Bermuda College is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and has planned a year-long schedule of activities to celebrate its progress in providing high quality post-secondary education, as Bermuda’s only institution of higher learning.

“The proposed amendments to the Act will support the Board of Governors and the President of the College in continuing their effective management and operation of the Bermuda College.

“As such, there are specific sections of the Act that will be updated and modernized.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce to this Honourable House proposed amendments to the Bermuda College Act 1974. The amendments to the Act are administrative in nature with the primary purpose of preparing the College for its accreditation review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, that will occur in March 2015.

Mr. Speaker I remind my Honourable colleagues that the Bermuda College is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and has planned a year-long schedule of activities to celebrate its progress in providing high quality post-secondary education, as Bermuda’s only institution of higher learning.

The proposed amendments to the Act will support the Board of Governors and the President of the College in continuing their effective management and operation of the Bermuda College. As such, there are specific sections of the Act that will be updated and modernized.

Mr. Speaker let me first start with amendments as it relates to members of the Board of Governors. The Bill seeks to amend the Act so that ex officio members of the Board now comprise a representative from the Bermuda College Faculty Association; the Student Government Council; and the Bermuda College Honorary Fellows; along with the Chairman of the National Training Board and the Permanent Secretary for Education who replaced the Chief Education Officer [currently the Commissioner of Education].

This latter replacement was deemed to be more appropriate for directly representing the interests of the Minister on the Board. The broad scope of ex officio members now better reflect the interests needed for the effective governance of the College.

Lastly, the President of the Bermuda College will be released from the function of secretary during Board meetings and an employee of the College will be appointed to serve as Clerk to the Board. This positions the President to be able to contribute more effectively during business discussions.

Mr. Speaker, next I will share other requirements or changes to the Act which are needed to support the College’s re-accreditation and bring it in line with accreditation standards and best practices. In terms of good governance, there must be both consistency and continuity in Board membership.

The appointed Board will now consist of no more than nine members with each member appointed to office for a term of up to three years, and they may be re-appointed for a second term. Also, members will hold terms of office such that the expiration of terms in any given year does not exceed fifty percent of the expiration terms of all board members.

Mr. Speaker, the academic function currently held by the Board will be shifted to the Academic Council. This will make Bermuda College compliant with the accreditation standards relating to the governance of the College.

Currently the Academic Council, which is similar to the Academic Senate in many post-secondary institutions, consisting of faculty members, students and administrators, and chaired by a faculty member, is responsible for the development of academic policies and procedures relating to curriculum, programme, and instruction at the College. Although the Council plays a very significant and crucial role at the College, there is no reference to it in the Act.

The current Act states that these academic functions are the responsibility of the Board. However, in amending this, the Board will now formally establish an Academic Council which will be responsible for the development of academic policies, courses and programmes.

Mr. Speaker, it is the current practice to lay the by-laws of the Board before this Honorable House for approval. Generally by-laws make provisions for how Board and committee meetings are run; such as frequency of meetings held, notice of meetings, quorums, voting determinations and recording minutes.

The amendments will provide for the by-laws to be made without the necessity for Parliamentary approval and the Minister will approve the by-laws, and be allowed to add, delete or vary the proposed Schedule outlining the matters to be prescribed through by-laws.

There is no existing record of by-laws being presented or approved as a statutory instrument; however, as part of the accreditation process the Board has established draft by-laws to govern its affairs during the interim.

Mr. Speaker, other amendments to update the Act include extending the timeframe to submit the annual report of the Bermuda College to the Minister; allowing public school students under the compulsory school age to attend the College at no cost; and, empowering the College to use its assets as collateral for approved borrowing.

Mr. Speaker, the Bermuda College annual report is submitted usually as soon as possible and within four months after the close of the College’s financial accounting year. However a period of six months is more practical for both submission of the report, and to allow the Office of the Auditor General sufficient time to complete the audited financial statements which will need to be included. Additionally, the amendment to the Act proposes that any general directions given by the Minister during the course of the year should be included in the annual report.

Mr. Speaker, the House was previously informed that the doors of Bermuda College are now open to students as young as 16 years old who qualify for its senior school dual enrolment programme. To facilitate this, the Bill seeks to amend the Act to provide for students under the compulsory school age who attend an aided or maintained school be allowed to attend Bermuda College without being required to pay the College tuition.

However, the amendment will permit the College to charge a fee for services rendered to fee-paying institutions whose students attend Bermuda College. An agreement will be established between Bermuda College and the relevant institutions for all services provided.

Mr. Speaker, unlike many quangos, currently Bermuda College does not have the power to leverage its assets to borrow money to invest in its capital plant. At this point the College has no immediate plans to borrow funds but would like to have this opportunity if needed.

Therefore, the proposed amendment to the Act will allow the College to borrow from the Government, or from any person or organization. The purposes for which the College may borrow will include; meeting expenses incurred by the Board in connection with capital works; the provision of working capital; acquiring interests in property or rights of a company, partnership, or other association; and, any other purpose for which capital funding is needed.

The borrowed funds may be secured upon the property of the College by way of mortgage. However, no borrowing may take place without the written consent of both the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance.

Finally Mr. Speaker, to give effect to the proposed amendment granting borrowing powers to the College, the Bermuda College Buildings Reserve Fund Act 1987, which established a fund for the purposes of capital works for Bermuda College, and which cannot run a deficit, will be repealed.

Section 14 of the Bermuda College Buildings Reserve Fund Act 1987 provides for the Minister of Finance, by Order, to close the Fund, and any credit or balance remaining after allowing for outstanding liabilities must be paid into the Consolidated Fund. This Fund has been dormant for some years and there are no transitional matters related to the fund to speak of.

Thank you Mr. Speaker, this concludes my remarks on the proposed administrative changes to the Bermuda College Act.

Mr. Speaker, I move that this Bill be referred to Committee.

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  1. Stunned... says:

    “However, the amendment will permit the College to charge a fee for services rendered to fee-paying institutions whose students attend Bermuda College…”

    Why should students at a fee paying school have to pay additional fees at the college? This amounts to parents paying 3 times for an education for the student – once with parents being taxed indirectly/directly with funds going to the Ministry of Education et al, another directly to the school and thirdly with the imposition of fee levied by the college. Not all students in fee paying schools are there because of an abundance of cash but more out of an abundance of the parent(s) desire/sacrifice for the student to succeed.

    Do we want kids to succeed or not? If so, in this instance we a need-blind admissions policy that admits students regardless of their ability to pay. Do we want to penalize kids because they attend a fee paying school? If the Government sees fit to extend free bus rides to all students, it needs to do the same for these courses. Come now, will there be so many students in this program to warrant charging some of them fees and not the others? I hardly think so.