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May 26, 2023

Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Now Available at St. John’s College

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed earlier today between Saint John’s College and a Guatemalan university.  The partnership is to establish a bachelor’s degree program in engineering to be offered to Belizeans in country. It amounts to huge savings for students who traditionally would have to travel overseas to pursue a degree in this area of study. Now, they can do so at home at a fraction of the cost. News Five’s Duane Moody reports on this momentous occasion that was marked by an official ceremony.


Duane Moody, Reporting

At the start of the new academic year in September, St. John’s Colleg will be launching its bachelor’s program in engineering at its West Landivar campus.  A memorandum of understanding was signed this morning between the institution and the accredited Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala to provide a five-year bachelor’s degree program in engineering. It’s a bold step being taken by SJC to meet market demand for this career.


Mirtha Peralta

Mirtha Peralta, President, St. John’s College

“It’s historic because we are bringing opportunity for our Belizean people and Belizean students. We have been serving this nation for over a hundred and thirty-six years and now in the fall of 2023, we are going to start our bachelor’s program and so this relationship is very important. One of the first things that we are working on with Rafael Landivar is in the development of the civil engineering program here for the Belizean students which is going to bring a lot of goodness one because it’s going to be an opportunity for them to do that degree here in Belize and also that it’s going to be less costly than going anywhere else in the world. As we announce today, the degree is going to be a dual degree and so students from this college are going to receive a Saint John’s College bachelor’s degree but also receive a bachelor’s degree from Rafael Landivar.”


The idea for this cooperation agreement was conceived in July 2022, at a global conference for Jesuit universities in Boston, Massachusetts. Doctor Martha Perez is the Academic Vice Chancellor at the Guatemalan university.


Martha Perez

Dr. Martha Perez, Academic Vice Chancellor, Universidad Rafael Landivar

“We have a lot of plans for collaboration. For example student and teachers exchange programs. We want plans to create new programs in specific areas: engineering, management, tourism. We are planning exchange programs to learn English and learn Spanish too. It is a huge idea for all our students.”


Senior Executive Engineer in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing, Irvin Thimbrel says that there is a gap in persons with this degree in the country.


Irvin Thimbrel

Irvin Thimbrel, Senior Executive Engineer, M.I.D.H.

“The difficulty in getting opportunities in the past and even now, it’s very difficult to get an opportunity to go and study engineering which is a very important field of study here for Belize. You see climate change, we see all the different situations with the road, with the buildings, with everything that is changing, flooding – all of those are works that civil engineers do. And so there is a great need for civil engineers in Belize, but the opportunities, it’s not easy – it is very costly and it is not readily available locally.”


So how much will this cost? SJC President Mirtha Peralta says that the development of the program is complete and breaks down the cost-saving opportunity provided to Belizeans wanting to pursue this field of study. Of note is that Belize has had an issue with brain drain.


Mirtha Peralta

“The program is going to be a pre-engineering – two years associate’s degree and three years for the bachelor’s program. So in five years, students are going to be able to complete the engineering degree which is the same if you would go anywhere else in the world. And so the cost is and as we said and we put out already, the cost is going to be three hundred dollars per credit hour and so if you are doing a semester of fifteen or eighteen credits; it is going to be about five thousand dollars. And if we multiple that by six semesters, it is going to be a little bit under thirty [thousand dollars]. The first two years, it is going to remain under the junior college, the pre-engineering. Why are we doing that? Again, to benefit the students so that the student can pay the fees at the associate level and not at the bachelor level. I have been here at the college for twenty years and I have seen so many students go away to study, especially engineering, and they never return to Belize. And so we are hoping that by having this program here in Belize that our students are going to be able to stay in Belize.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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