The 17-year-old institution, Hydel Group of Schools, has added a tertiary arm to its educational offerings.

In a ceremony held at the school's headquarters at Ferry, St Catherine, Sunday afternoon, Education Minister Andrew Holness officially declared the Hydel University open.

Founder and president, Senator Hyacinth Bennett, while welcoming the school's first set of students who officially began classes yesterday, admitted the institution has endured its own share of challenges.

"Hydel has encountered a number of potentially blistering challenges," she said. "But at Hydel we do not know how to give up, whatever happens we have kept going."

The group already has 11 educational departments including programmes from kindergarten to the secondary level.

The tertiary arm will offer degree- and diploma-level training in early childhood and primary education on both a part-time and full-time basis.

The programmes to be offered by the Hydel University will be geared towards pre-trained teachers. Bennett further said, by next year, the institution will be adding a master's level programme to its list of offerings.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said the new addition was an achievement for education in Jamaica.

"I don't know of any other institution that caters to the human being from nursery stage through kindergarten, primary, secondary, all the way up to university. Under one management, at one location," he said.

'University village'

He further pointed out that it would not be long before the institution would outgrow its present location and committed to establishing a long term "university village" for similar schools.

"That's why the UDC (Urban Development Corporation), in designing the use of the Caymanas Land, intends to reserve a section of those lands for what we want to call, in concept, a university village," the prime minister said. "We want to provide enough lands for these new universities to set up a proper campus, on a permanent basis with adequate space for them to grow."

Golding added that, in this setting, the institutions would be able to take advantage of the support system that would be created.

"There are various services that they would be able to share by occupying space collectively and they would be able to reduce the heavy costs of operating a university."

He said the project was still in its planning stages as the UDC board and management would need to consult with the Ministry of Education and the various institutions. He, however, said it was an initiative that he fully supported.

Golding added: "It is something that we want to do because this expansion opportunity for tertiary education is something that is important to the future of this country."

Bennett also said students of the college would be exposed to training offered by highly qualified and experienced lecturers, led by two of the island's outstanding educators, Kay Anderson, retired vice-principal of academic affairs and student matters at The Mico University College, and Dr Burnett St Clair Burton, former vice-president of The Mico University College.

United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) advocate, Stephen Golding, will also join the school's faculty in his role as Marcus Garvey chair, through which he will be teaching the philosophies of the national hero.