The College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) is the largest, national public provider of tertiary education in Trinidad and Tobago. The institution was established by Act of Parliament in 2000, and at the time, comprised six existing tertiary education institutions. The new institution broke with established traditional models by offering associate degrees and a credit-based system of instruction – practices which would eventually have system-wide impact nationally.
Key aspects of the new College’s mandate were to broaden access and support national development through the preparation of graduates for the work force. However, mid-way through this first decade, efforts at the rationalisation of the tertiary education sector would lead to the restructuring of the institution. This resulted in a sudden narrowing in the span of programme offerings and consequently, a reduction in enrolment. This change in fortune notwithstanding, the College was able to re-orient itself and in late 2008, under the leadership of its previous president, Emmanuel E. Gonsalves, the institution renewed its strategic vision and entered a new phase of rapid development and consolidation.
As a result, in the intervening three years between September 2008 and the September 2011, the College can lay claim to a number of major accomplishments, including:
- The substantial increase of its enrolment from 5,014 in 2008 to over 11,600 students by September 2011.
- In alignment with the its new strategic direction, the College developed and introduced a core curriculum aimed at producing graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to make them valuable contributors to our emerging knowledge economy.
- The continued implementation of strategies to expand access through an enhanced college prep programme – Compensatory Programmes and Academic Support Services (COMPASS); the introduction of several bachelor’s degrees, as well as the opening of two new sites in San Fernando and Tobago respectively.
- Immediate plans for an interim campus in Chaguanas and a campus in Sangre Grande
- The granting of lands by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for the construction of the main campus in Chaguanas
- The award of institutional accreditation by the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) for the maximum period of seven (7) years.
- Key improvements leading to organisational efficiencies included implementation of the state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Banner. The College is now the only tertiary education institution in Trinidad and Tobago and the region, to utilise this higher education software to manage almost all aspects of its operations from finance and HR, to student processes and procurement.
The Strategic Imperatives
As the College looks ahead to the next phase of its history, it is poised, in alignment with Government’s seven-pillar framework for sustainable development, to pursue further, the strategic direction started in 2008. In this regard, the College’s six strategic imperatives, namely,
- Strengthening the Academic Enterprise;
- Broadening Access;
- Improving Student Success;
- Increasing Organisational Efficiency and Productivity;
- Improving Institutional Visibility and Image; and
- Upgrading Physical Infrastructure
These imperatives will no doubt continue to drive the accomplishment of the College’s strategic agenda.
The Strategic Vision
The College plays a pivotal role in national development and continues to meet its mandate of broadening access and providing relevant programmes for the workforce. In the first ten years since its establishment, COSTAATT has graduated over ten thousand (10,000) students into the national workforce, who are projected to contribute an estimated one billion dollars to the economy over their working life. If Trinidad and Tobago is to continue on its path towards the development of a diversified and knowledge-based economy, as indicated in Government’s framework for sustainable development, it must continue to place emphasis on citizens’ attainment of tertiary level education as a key input in the process. In this regard, the country aims to educate at least sixty (60) percent of the relevant age cohort to tertiary level.
In the last three years, demand for the College’s programmes and services has increased tremendously, as evidenced by recent rapid enrolment growth and the large numbers of applicants who have had to be turned away. While measures such as maximizing class scheduling and sizes have presented temporary solutions, demand continues to grow, and existing facilities are simply no longer adequate. The granting of a 30- acre parcel of land by the Government in April 2011 will allow the College to better address these needs when its main campus is built in the Chaguanas area within the next five years.
The College intends to continue to fulfill its access mandate by addressing current and projected rapid expansion in enrolment through the expansion of facilities, in the short term, via leasing and ultimately thereafter, through the construction of purpose-built facilities in strategic locations nationally. Additionally, the College is equipped and able to create educational opportunities that will convert academically under-prepared citizens into meaningful contributors to the national economy.
COSTAATT: Highlights and Achievements: 2000-2011
As the College celebrates its first 10 years of existence, COSTAATT is the first institution in Trinidad and Tobago to be granted accredited status by the ACTT, and this for the maximum period of seven (7) years. Through the conduct of the Self-Study, which is an integral part of the accreditation process, the College was able to identify strategies to cement its already robust academic foundations, and increase stakeholder participation, collegiate sprit, and commitment to the institution, especially among students. Indeed its commitment to quality teaching and learning, and the high post-graduation employment rate in national high priority areas such as nursing, environmental studies, applied health sciences and information technology, have played a critical role in strengthening the College’s practice of continuously improving the programmes and services offered to students.
Currently, with the support of its line ministry (MSTTE), and Board of Trustees, the College’s executive leadership team, faculty and staff are actively engaged in further quality enhancement initiatives such as:
- Expansion of physical facilities with new campuses in Chaguanas and Sangre Grande scheduled for January 2012
- Greater investment in educational technologies (nursing simulation labs, upgrade of computer facilities, additional multimedia equipment, wireless access)
- Increasing number of on-line classes
- Revised student governance structure
- Greater emphasis on co- and extra-curricular activities (career management, athletics programme, student development)
- Revised institutional governance structure – to allow for greater participation by students, faculty and staff
- Increased full-time to part-time faculty ratio
- Development and launch of new bachelor’s degree programmes
- Curriculum reengineering to facilitate a comprehensive core curriculum – to ensure the holistic development of students and workplace ready graduates
- Improved communication with students through the launch of student email
- Commitment to systematically measure institutional effectiveness through formal and informal mechanisms and to use the findings to continuously improve programmes, policies, and services.
With over 10,000 graduates since its establishment in 2000, COSTAATT has emerged as the primary national provider of professionals and para-professionals in nursing, allied health sciences, criminal justice, information technology, management, entrepreneurship and business administration, journalism and public relations, and environmental studies.
Such significant accomplishments in less than a decade can be attributed to the College’s deliberate and focused attention on achieving three key dimensions of its mandate:
1) Improving the quality and relevance of tertiary education provision in Trinidad and Tobago;
2) Broadening access to tertiary education for previously underserved groups; and
3) Supporting the national thrust to achieve a 60% participation rate in tertiary education by increasing enrolment in all programme areas.
Spearheaded by the College’s President, Emmanuel E. Gonsalves, COSTAATT has streamlined and upgraded its programme offerings to better support the national agenda for social and economic development. A new strategic direction for the College has been charted and programmes and initiatives which promote economic diversification, enhanced national security and crime reduction, environmental sustainability, expansion of social services support, and quality health care have all been prioritized for action.
In 2009, in order to contribute to job creation and diversification of the economy, COSTAATT launched Trinidad and Tobago’s first bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship. Further, the College has infused entrepreneurship into all its degree programmes in order to empower its graduates to be creators and not simply seekers of jobs. In a similar vein, the launch of new bachelor’s degree programmes in International Trade and Commerce and Latin American Studies in 2011 seeks to enhance national capacity to create and penetrate new markets for our goods and services.
At the same time that COSTAATT continues to improve the quality of its existing programmes, and to pioneer the introduction of new programmes that respond to identified and emerging market needs, the College will sustain its commitment to expanding access for a diverse profile of students, including the non-traditional student. It is important to note in this regard that since the launch of the COMPASS programme in 2009, over 2,250 citizens who would have previously been excluded from tertiary education are now enrolled in both college preparatory and college-level courses.
COSTAATT’s continuing commitment to access arises from our understanding that only by creating multiple and alternative pathways to tertiary education will Trinidad and Tobago be able to attain its targeted 60% participation rate, and to harness and release the potential of its citizens to contribute meaningfully to the emergence of a knowledge-driven economy and to national productivity.
COSTAATT’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan provides an opportunity for further strengthening the College’s alignment to Government’s policy on tertiary education and socio-economic development, as many real and potential synergies exist between Government’s seven pillars for sustainable development and the six strategic imperatives which provide the overarching framework for strategic planning at the College. The College’s six strategic imperatives which are aligned with Government’s seven pillars for sustainable development are as follows:
- Strengthening the Academic Enterprise;
- Broadening Access;
- Improving Student Success;
- Enhancing Organisational Effectiveness and Increasing Productivity;
- Improving Institutional Visibility and Image;
- Upgrading Physical Infrastructure.
In the ten years since its establishment in 2000, COSTAATT has, by dint of ingenuity, persistence and creativity in the pursuit of its mission, carved for itself a distinctive niche in the national tertiary education landscape for which it remains unchallenged. The College’s strategic imperatives are aligned with Government’s national development framework, its policy for tertiary education and higher education regulatory requirements stipulated by the ACTT. The College has successfully focused its developmental efforts in areas designed to have maximum impact on the delivery of teaching and learning, and the efficiency of its overall operations.
As the largest, public tertiary level institution in Trinidad and Tobago, the College offers a wide range of specialized, technical and academic programmes at degree, diploma and certificate levels in areas such as nursing, radiological sciences, social work, criminal justice, management, information technology, environmental studies, journalism, public relations and fine and performing arts. The College’s current enrolment for the 2011/12 academic year has peaked at over 10,000 students, with an average increased intake of 30% over the past three years, in several programme areas.
In addition, the College is equipped and able to create educational opportunities that will convert academically under-prepared citizens into meaningful contributors to the national economy having launched its COMPASS programme to cater to this segment of the population.
Trinidad and Tobago’s current development agenda focuses on education and putting its citizens first. Contingent on this national development strategy, COSTAATT seeks always to ensure quality and value for those investing in tertiary education and sees as one of its major strengths, its responsiveness to its two primary customers – students and employers in the public and private sector. In this regard, the College embarked on its journey toward accreditation, and in June 2008 registered status was obtained from the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) for the maximum period of three (3) years.