Tertiary education in the Cayman Islands

Higher education in the Cayman Islands is about more than studying in a beautiful location. Despite its small population, Cayman has established several post-secondary educational institutions of high calibre that not only serve local Caymanians but attract foreign students from around the world. In addition to tropical beaches, the level of teaching and the educational programmes offered, often in cooperation with universities in the US and the UK, are at least on par with international standards and commonly exceed those of Caribbean peers. 

Institutions of higher education have become an intrinsic part of the Cayman community, by offering affordable tuition, scholarships and grants and through their positive effect on the Cayman economy. Students in Cayman often achieve exceptional scholastic success, leaving education fully prepared for their future careers locally or abroad.

Tertiary education in Cayman is provided for by both government-run and private institutions. Government-sponsored tertiary education was introduced in 1975 with the establishment of a Community College as a part-time institution. In the 1980s the Cayman Islands government decided to centralise the administration of all public post-secondary educational institutions on the islands. The Hotel Training School, the Marine & Trade Training School and the Secretarial/Business Studies Section of the Sixth Form of the Cayman Islands High School were amalgamated to form the Community College of the Cayman Islands. A 1987 Act established the Community College as a semi-autonomous post-secondary educational institution. In 2004 the name of the institution was changed from Community College to University College of the Cayman Islands.

A smaller private college, the International College of the Cayman Islands, is Cayman’s oldest institution of tertiary learning. It was established in 1970 as an independent non-profit institution of higher education and offers students associate, bachelor and master’s degrees.

Two other institutions, the Cayman Islands Law School and St Matthew’s University, were created in 1982 and 1997 respectively. The Law School falls within the remit of the Cayman Islands Attorney General’s Chambers and maintains an integral link with Liverpool University’s faculty of law. St Matthew’s, the Medical School, has the only hospital-integrated education and research programme in the Caribbean and since 2005 also features a Veterinary School.

University College of the Cayman Islands
UCCI is an institution of higher learning that contributes to Caymanian society by advancing knowledge and developing creative graduates, and through its cultural, social, economic and environmental activities. Programmes are offered in a wide variety of disciplines and levels to meet the needs of a broad cross-section of the community.

The University College offers a variety of certificate programmes that normally require just one year of full-time study. These programmes are designed primarily to prepare students for entry-level positions in the world of work. However, satisfactory completion may provide qualification for entry into the Associate degree programmes at the University College. The programmes offered include Accounting, Computer Technician, Construction, Electrical, Music and, in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, Hospitality Certificates.

Professional programmes designed for working professionals looking to upgrade skills are also offered at the University College. Through partnership with the Institute of Legal Executives, Legal Secretarial Certificates as well as Legal Studies Levels 2 and 3 are available. These programmes provide an excellent opportunity for those working in the legal sector to obtain new skills and advance their careers or for ambitious young professionals looking for a career change. The Cayman Banking Certificate provides a similar opportunity for those in Cayman’s vibrant banking industry or those looking to enter the field. Finally, the Certificate in Management Practice provides participants with practical strategies and techniques, geared toward increasing effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace.

In the traditional trades, UCCI received in 2008 accreditation from the Institute of the Motor Industry to offer the IMI certified automotive repair programmes. The department of Continuing Education and Professional Development also offers part time vocational courses, leisure courses and general education courses.

Associate degrees represent the most popular programmes at UCCI. With specialisations in 14 different majors, everyone can find a choice to suit their desires. The Associate of Arts degrees (Accounting, Business Administration; Economics; Hospitality Management; Literary Studies and Social Studies) and the Associate of Science degrees (Computer Science; Mathematics and Sciences) provide excellent foundations in the chosen field and prepare students well for further study. Students who satisfy the requirements for graduation with either of these degrees will normally have completed the equivalent of the first two years of study towards a Bachelor’s degree in the same area of specialisation and will be well prepared to continue in Bachelor’s degree programmes or overseas.

Bachelor’s degrees were introduced at UCCI in 2004 and have continued to grow in popularity every year since then. Students in business studies can choose a concentration in Accounting, Economics, Finance, Marketing or Management. In addition, a Computer Science degree has been added, along with a Bachelor of Education and advanced courses in Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.

Complementing the broad range of undergraduate programmes, the University College has recently added a range of opportunities at the post-graduate level such as the Master’s in Human Resources Management programme and the new MBA programme introduced this year. This robust programme is being offered in conjunction with our Executive Management Certificate, in partnership with the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.


A range of other executive and post-graduate programmes are continually on offer, including the Post Graduate Diploma in Education, the Becker CPA review programme, and a host of custom training opportunities for today’s busy professional. Most programmes in this area are offered in Executive format, utilising evenings, weekends and day release, to work in concert with the demanding work schedules of our students.

The University College also houses the Islands’ only official Microsoft IT Academy for preparation, training and testing of a host of Microsoft certification exams. Our team of Technical and Applications trainers is well equipped to meet all of your individual or business training needs. Other custom certifications, including CompTIA and Cisco certifications are available on demand.

The Cayman Islands Law School
The Cayman Islands Law School was established in 1982 with an initial enrolment of seven students and one faculty member, the first director of legal studies, who was on leave from Liverpool University’s faculty of law. This fortuitous link with Liverpool was to prove of fundamental importance in the evolution of CILS.

By 1987, the law school had secured a formal affiliation with the University and the University’s Bachelor of Laws degree, which since 1991 is a three-year, full-time qualification conferred upon the graduates of CILS.

The first postgraduate Professional Practice Course was introduced in September 1994. Successful completion of the qualifying examination was and remains the local requirement for registration of 18 months’ articles of clerkship, the completion of which marks the end of legal training and eligibility to enter into local legal practice. As a response to local demand, the LL.B honours programme was introduced on a part-time basis in 1998.

CILS is a department within the Cayman Islands Legal Portfolio and falls under the ultimate responsibility of the Attorney General Samuel Bulgin QC. Including the director, Mitchell Davies, the faculty consists of eight full-time members of academic staff in addition to 3.5 members of support staff, including two qualified librarians. The law library is the centrepiece of the law school and contains probably the Island’s largest collection of legal reference materials and textbooks. Much of the collection of textbooks, law reports and law journals is published in England and supports the law school’s English LLB undergraduate provision.

The affiliation that the Cayman Islands Law School shares with the University of Liverpool has been essential and is unique in the Caribbean, as it allows students to study in the Cayman Islands for an English LLB degree conferred by a leading UK University.

Parity in standards with Liverpool University students is ensured by a rigorous assessment regime, which involves the Liverpool Law School in all stages of the assessment process. The Cayman LLB degree is recognised as a Qualifying Law degree by the English Law Society and English Bar Council. The qualification therefore has a truly international pedigree and is recognised for the purposes of enrolling on local bar courses in numerous Caribbean and Commonwealth jurisdictions in addition to a number of North American jurisdictions.

For those Caymanian graduates of the LLB programme who do not wish to pursue the final stage of their technical legal training overseas, CILS offers the postgraduate Professional Practice Course, an intensive skills-based course offered over nine months. Following the successful completion of eight examinations and a practical research project, candidates are awarded the Qualifying Examination certificate. Thereafter, the successful completion of 18 months’ articles of clerkship, the on-the-job training in legal practice in either the private or public sector, leads to the award of the Attorney-at-Law certificate and to qualification locally as an attorney.

Not surprisingly, many of Cayman’s most prominent lawyers, politicians and civil servants have graduated from CILS, which is a further endorsement of the quality and versatility of the programme.

Looking forward, CILS is in ongoing discussions with the University of Liverpool to offer a taught Master of Laws degree, which it is hoped will be introduced on a part-time basis over two years in September 2010. The subject matter of the proposed degree ‘International Finance: Law and Regulation’ has been carefully selected to chime with Cayman’s reputation as a leading offshore financial centre. As with the school’s undergraduate provision, the intention is to offer the LLM as a Liverpool University qualification with all teaching being offered locally.

The approval of this programme is one of the matters that will be on the agenda of a visiting team from the University of Liverpool, which will be undertaking a regular teaching quality audit of CILS in October 2009. It is hoped that following the audit, CILS will be able to make a formal announcement regarding the offering of the LLM programme from the opening of the 2010 academic year.

St. Matthew’s University
Founded in 1997, St. Matthew’s University is comprised of a School of Medicine offering a Doctor of Medicine degree and a School of Veterinary Medicine offering a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

St. Matthew’s University has a diverse and international student body, with particular concentrations of students from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Cayman Islands. Providing quality education focused on the success of students is the foundation of St. Matthew’s University.

The Cayman Islands affords the students of St. Matthew’s an educational experience unlike any other. Grand Cayman offers not only a beautiful setting for studying, but also a highly developed infrastructure, a safe environment and an exceptional quality of life. The Cayman community has always welcomed productive collaborations with St. Matthew’s University. SMU medical students engage in clinical shadowing with physicians in Grand Cayman’s two state-of-the-art hospitals and various clinics. SMU veterinary students work in collaboration with veterinarians from the Cayman Department of Agriculture as well as local farmers. SMU supports the efforts of organisations like the Cayman Heart Fund, Cayman Cancer Society and the Cayman Islands Medical and Dental Society by hosting symposia for local healthcare professionals as well as the broader community.

Located on stunning Seven Mile Beach as well as the Lower Valley, the university boasts an infrastructure on par with North American schools. With newly renovated lecture halls and laboratories, students can enhance their learning via anatomical close-ups projected on large flat screen televisions, new projection systems and recorded lectures available for review 24/7 online. 

SMU has low student to faculty ratios as well as very dedicated faculty members who are focused on teaching and mentoring. To promote student success, St. Matthew’s School of Medicine and its highly credentialed faculty offer ground-breaking academic support programmes. The Centre for Learning Enhancement encourages students to develop their academic and personal skills via faculty reviews and tutoring, academic coaches, as well as a unique student development course and academic development workshops.


The School of Veterinary Medicine students are offered a unique setting for veterinary study as Grand Cayman has a rich variety of wildlife, large animals and companion animals coupled with a modern clinical facility. The distinguished faculty of the programme includes internationally recognised scientists such as board certified diplomats in surgery, internal medicine, public health, animal behaviour and toxicology.

After completion of their Basic Sciences on Grand Cayman, students journey to the US or UK, where they participate in hands-on clinical education at major hospitals and universities including Florida Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, Whipps Cross Hospital (London), North Carolina State University and the University of Pennsylvania. During both Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences, students may choose to participate in a concurrent online MBA programme offered through Davenport University.

St. Matthew’s University offers students affordable tuition coupled with scholarship and loan opportunities. The Office of Financial Aid awards scholarships three times a year to incoming students who have distinguished themselves via outstanding academic performance, community involvement and research interactions. As part of the University’s commitment to the country and citizens of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands Scholarships are provided to qualified Caymanian citizens. These scholarships cover all Basic Sciences tuition and fees.

Since most SMU students are visitors to Cayman from other countries, the incremental economic benefit to Cayman of hosting SMU is significant. SMU’s 500-plus students on Cayman rent apartments, frequent restaurants and other local merchants and also host family and friends who vacation on the Island. With a large student body and more than 50 employees on Cayman, SMU’s direct spending in the Cayman economy is also significant.

SMU students achieve exceptional scholastic success, with US licensing examination pass rates comparable to US schools and far above the average of other non-US schools. SMU graduates have earned residencies and/or permanent licensure in more than 40 US states as well as Canada, the UK and numerous other countries. Recent residency placements have included such notable programmes as the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, Maine Medical Center and the University of Florida.