Draft Higher Education Ordinance
On Wednesday, December 28, 2022, the Council of Ministers approved the Draft Higher Education Ordinance to be presented to Parliament for ratification. The long-anticipated law has been in development since 2010 and, once placed on the agenda of Parliament for debate, is expected to be ratified in 2023.
The direct reason for the current draft is the lack of legislation regulating Higher Education. Since the late 1980s Sint Maarten has had the University of St. Martin (USM), a higher education institution that aims to provide quality higher education programs for students from both the Dutch and French sides, as well as the neighboring Caribbean countries. In addition, several foreign medical universities have established themselves on the island in the past, of which one is currently still present on Sint Maarten: the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC). Yet there is no legal framework that formally regulates the higher education system. Higher education is currently provided on the basis of agreements, contracts, or letters of intent (Memoranda of Understanding) with individual institutions and/or for specific programs. Due to the lack of legislation, access to higher education, its quality, and efficient financing is not guaranteed.
Therefore, with the draft legislation, the government aims to strengthen the education system and create more opportunities for more students from Sint Maarten to have increased access to a variety of quality higher education programs and to counteract the brain drain. The draft legislation outlines the legal position, tasks, responsibilities, and funding of organizations that provide higher education in Sint Maarten. It controls access to and quality of higher education and the legal position of staff, lecturers, and students. The draft law has been broadly consulted with stakeholders, including the directorates of USM and AUC, over the last years prior to being sent for decision-making.
The Council of Advice received the draft Higher Education Law for its review and advice in 2022. The Council returned the draft national ordinance higher education with advice, which was reviewed, consulted upon, adjustments made where required and a report prepared. The law is now on its way to Parliament and is expected to be ratified in 2023.