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Strategic Policy Initiatives To Foster The Vibrant Growth Of Private Tertiary Universities - Rev. Prof. Larbi   
 
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10-Dec-2018  
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Rev. Professor Emmanuel K. Larbi
 
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Strategic Policy Initiatives To Foster The Vibrant Growth Of Private Tertiary Universities In Ghana

Address by Rev. Professor Emmanuel K. Larbi  at the 12 Graduation Ceremony of Regent University 8th December, 2018

His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, being represented by Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation);

Chairman of the University Council;

Representatives of Vice Chancellors of Affiliate Institutions;

Members the Board of Regents of Regent University College of Science and Technology;

Members of Council;

President of Regent University College of Science and Technology;

Heads and representatives of sister institutions;

Convocation;

Graduands;

Nananom, Nii mɛ kɛ Naa mɛ;

Students;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:   

 

It is my singular pleasure to welcome all of you to the twelfth graduation ceremony of this great institution.

 

For this year’s graduation, I am speaking on the topic:

“Strategic Policy Initiatives to Foster the Vibrant Growth of Private Universities in Ghana.”

This theme is very important precisely because, though on the whole, private universities in Ghana have made some significant contributions to tertiary education in the country, and to the development of this nation in no small way, it can also be said that the sector would not be able to achieve its full potential without certain policy initiatives.

Private Universities in countries like the Philippines, Cyprus, Turkey, Kenya, and South Africa, to name a few, are major stakeholders and a force to reckon with.  In the Philippines for instance, the private university sector provides about 80% of tertiary education needs in the country.  Another striking example is Kenya, where private universities are major stakeholders, with some of them making inroads into neighbouring countries.  The private university sector in Ghana, however, is yet to achieve this level of impact their counterparts in other countries have made.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to submit to you that the growth and development of the private university sector have been hindered by three main factors:

1.Unbridled liberalization of the sector with no moderation from the central government;

2.Oppressive and somehow unethical practices and competition from the older state funded universities and other state institutions;

3.Funding challenges as a result of over dependence on tuition fees as the main source of income for both recurrent and capital expenditures.

All these three areas would require certain policy initiatives for the sector to thrive like their counterparts elsewhere. I would, however, like to highlight two of the challenges mentioned here.  I will then then present some policy proposals which will also speak to the funding challenge.

Unbridled Liberalization of the Sector

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: as at 1998, there were only two accredited private universities in Ghana (Valley View College and Central University College).  As at 2005, when Regent University took off, the number had reached about twelve.  The current information from the National Accreditation Board’s website is that there are now 81 private tertiary institutions that are offer degree programmes.

Some of the early starters were very innovative, creative and daring.  They came up with programmes and arrangements that were not being offered by the public universities.  For example, the introduction of evening and weekend full time degree programmes in the country, was first started at Central University College (now Central University) where the present speaker was then the President of the University College.  We have also had occasions to mention in different contexts that, the first ever postgraduate programme in Computer Science that was offered in Ghana, was an innovation of Regent University in partnership with the Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences, Germany.  The recent proliferation of different kinds of MBA being offered in this country, should not make us lose the fact that the first-ever internationally accredited MBA to be offered in this country was also an initiative of Regent University, in collaboration with the Maastricht School of Management, the Netherlands.  

As one would expect, as the number of private institutions increased in the country, competition aggravated.  One would have thought that some of the faith-based organisations would collaborate to establish one leading university of world-class status but this wasn’t the case.  Even in some cases, different Dioceses within the same religious organisation chose to establish their own universities within their respective dioceses!  With few exceptions, most of these institutions, both foreign and local, duplicated the programmes that other institutions were already running.

Within this context, some foreign institutions joined the fray. Whereas in some countries, foreign institutions could only be allowed to operate through collaborating with already existing institutions in the host country, the Ghanaian scene does not have such controls.    

Apart from the unbridled liberalization of the sector that requires intervention, there is a more deadly area that requires immediate attention.  

Oppressive and Unethical Practices by State institutions

The Public Universities

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: The numerical growth of the pioneer private universities in their early days created the public perception that the private universities were making a lot of money.  The public universities also bought into this perception.  They therefore started charging outrageous affiliation fees and other charges.  In one particular instance, one of the public universities was charging GhS45, 000 a year for validating only one programme that had only a handful of students!  The demands of some of them as mentoring institutions have also been very oppressive.  For instance, one particular institution insisted that private universities affiliated to it was not to offer postgraduate programmes that the ‘parent’ body was offering.  They could only host the programmes of the parent institution under arrangements tilted to benefit this particular government institution.  Though after some pleadings by the private universities, certain changes have taken place, by and large, the posture of the public universities has not helped the private universities to grow.  

 

In some cases some of the practices of the public universities are simply unethical.  For example, whereas the National Accreditation Board (NAB) do not permit universities to admit candidates with D7 and E8 passes into their degree programmes, some of the public universities have a cunning way around it.  One particular institution used their social media channels to entice students with D7 and E8 passes, to apply for a two year diploma programme, with an additional information that after the two year diploma programme, these students would be admitted to do two more years to get a degree!  So in effect, these category of students will attain the same end in four years just as their counterparts who had the requisite entry qualifications, and started from Level 100!  We need to state here that under no circumstances would the National Accreditation Board allow any of the private universities to adopt such back door tactics for their recruitment efforts.  

From all indications, it appears, the intention of the public Universities is to absorb all qualified and unqualified prospective students for both their regular and non-regular programmes.  Copying from the private universities, they have added evening and weekend streams, in addition to top-ups, to their distance programmes which they have now recently expanded.  Furthermore, the public universities are now organizing pre-tertiary programmes also.  

This trend has seriously emptied the pool from which the private universities used to draw their students.  Because of these activities by the government universities, without exception, it will be no exaggeration to state that at the moment all the private universities are experiencing serious admission challenges.  The most recent challenge that confronts the private universities is the conversion of the polytechnics into technical universities.

It is noteworthy to indicate that whereas the salaries and allowances of employees of the public universities are fully covered by the state, the same cannot be said of the private universities.  So for the public universities, the various classes they are running outside their mainstream classes, are things that bring additional income to the respective institutions and the individual staff that are involved.  The monetary attraction is leading these public universities to run classes and even conduct examinations on Sundays, sometimes against the will of some of their captive money paying clients!

The National Accreditation Board  

Apart from oppressive practices by the state universities, which I have attempted to elaborate here, it also needs to be mentioned that some of the charges of the National Accreditation Board (NAB) are very oppressive.  

 

The following fees are among the fees advertised on the website of the National Accreditation Board (www.nab.gov.gh/service-fees):

1.Programme Assessment and Programme Re-accreditation  Ghc5000.00;

2. Programme Accreditation Certificate Ghc3000;

3.Institutional Accreditation (new institutions Ghc30,000; existing institutions Ghc20,000);

4.Institutional Accreditation and Reaccreditation Certificate: Ghc6000.

One would wonder why after paying such huge sums of money for the assessment of a programme or an institution have been paid, and the exercise is concluded, the NAB would again demand that the same institution must pay more money (ranging between Ghc3000 and Ghc6000) to collect a certificate that has no comeliness, whose printing cost, to be honest, would not be more than five Cedis (Ghc5.00)?  

The Private Universities of the Future

How can the private university sector in Ghana thrive like their counterparts elsewhere?

This will require certain strategic policy initiatives by the leadership within the private universities, and that of the central government.

The private universities who want to continue to be in business and also succeed as vibrant institutions like their counterparts elsewhere, will have to re-strategise in the following areas, among others:-

1.They must be willing to merge or collaborate with other institutions for capacity building, cost reduction, higher efficiency, effectiveness, resourcefulness, and maximisation of efforts.

2.They must diversify their sources of funding and move away from using tuition fees for infrastructural development at the face of dwindling students’ numbers.  

3.They must think along the line of ‘authenticity’ by building their own brands. They must build their strong reputation and credibility based upon what they themselves can offer. The determining factors here will have to necessarily include:

·Quality programmes and their relevance to industry;

·Availability of quality facilities for teaching, learning, and research;

·Enforcement of quality teaching and hands-on training experience;

·The presence of world-class staff;

·Ability to attract and recruit quality students who fit into the mission and vision of the respective institutions, not just any students simply because the University is looking for students;

·Availability of decent hostel facilities;

·Adequate on-campus sports facilities;

·Adequate cash flow to support the operations of the institution.

 

4.Those registered as companies limited by shares may have to bring in venture capital to help fund their infrastructure and other areas that require huge capital outlay.  The institutions limited by Guarantee will have to work hard to attract partners with the requisite funds, or low interest or non-recourse loans.  Commercial loans are untenable for such institutions.

 

5.The government should be interested in ensuring that the private universities flourish precisely because, among other things, this would result in job creation, capacity building, the expansion of the economy, and innovation.    It will be helpful therefore, if the central government takes concrete steps to augment the efforts of those in the private university sector.  To this end, the following policy proposals should be deemed as critical:-

 

a.The government must collaborate with the relevant agencies to provide low interest and non-recourse loans to the private universities for their capital expenditure, especially infrastructural development, and investment in high-end laboratory equipment.

b.There must be a direct state policy to prevent the public universities from engaging in practices and activities that that undermine the efforts of the private universities.

c.The public Universities must be made to concentrate on their core mandates.  

d.The existing regulation that the private universities must affiliate to existing older institutions until they receive a charter, must be discontinued since it is being abused by the public universities for their own ends.

e.External institutions or foreigners who want to establish universities or campuses of foreign Universities in Ghana must not be allowed to do so without collaborating with existing institutions or agencies in the country.  Exceptions may be made in subject areas like medicine where the need is acute.  In any case, under no circumstances should foreign institutions or foreign nationals be allowed to establish universities to offer programmes in subject areas that are already being offered by the existing institutions.

f.The National Accreditation Board must be properly resourced so that they could adequately fulfill their mandate.

g.There must be direct intervention by the government to ensure that some of the charges of the National Accreditation Board are completely abolished.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my considered opinion that the private university sector in Ghana has the potential to grow and develop to become major role players not only in Ghana, but in Africa as a whole.  However, for this to happen, it will require bold policy initiatives by the state and the principal actors in the sector.  To this end, all of us must pray; for the best is yet to come!

MAY THE GOOD LORD BLESS US ALL

On that note:

Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, representing the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo;

Chairman of the University Council;

Representatives of Vice Chancellors of Affiliate Institutions;

Members of the Board of Regents of the Regent University College of Science and Technology;

Members of Council;

President of Regent University College of Science and Technology;

Heads and representatives of sister institutions;

Convocation;

Graduands;

Students;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

BY THE POWERS VESTED IN ME AS THE CHANCELLOR OF REGENT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, I DO HEREBY DECLARE THE ASSEMBLY DULY CONSTITUTED FOR THE 12th CONGREGATION OF REGENT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY.

 

THANK YOU.

 
 
Source: Peacefmonline.com
 
 

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