Technical Universities Lack Capacity To Deliver � IMANI

IMANI Ghana has said the technical universities lack the capacity to deliver the kind of training that will make their students problem solvers.

In its pre-election report, the policy think-tank said: “Unfortunately, these intentions, however desirable on paper, are not going to have impact even in the short or medium term because of a great lack of capacity to run these schools.

There is very little strategic focus on developing a vibrant curriculum. Teachers themselves are very ill-equipped to teach students, most of them being the worst performers in school and choosing teaching as the last option.”

Government, in September this year, converted six polytechnics into technical universities, with the four others expected to be converted at a later date.

The justification for converting the polytechnics into technical universities was to reposition them as strategic institutions for training highly skilled human resources to drive economic growth.

It is also meant to make them achieve parity of esteem with universities without departing from the practice-oriented philosophy of polytechnic education and training.

Furthermore, the conversion is meant to create a progressive pathway at the tertiary level for practically-inclined SHS students and technical school graduates.

Indeed, the committee that worked on the conversion of the polytechnics indicated in its report that funding will be the biggest challenge to an effective technical university regime.

The committee described technical university training as being “expensive”, indicating that realisation of the objectives would be dependent on how well-funded the upgraded institutions are.

"Adequate funding for the converted polytechnics is a critical challenge that must be addressed by the government, policy implementers, and leaders of the polytechnics aspiring to technical university status," the report stated.

Citing Germany, for example, the committee said the German government spends an amount of €5,000 -- €7200 (or the equivalent of about GHC15,000 -- GHC21,000) on every student in a university of applied sciences per year.

"Currently, the Government of Ghana spends less than GHC3,000 on a student in a polytechnic per year. The huge gap between the current and optimal funding levels will have to be bridged if the quality of training in the converted polytechnics is to be comparable to international standards," the report added.

In 2014, the polytechnics were allocated only GHC150,571,282 out of a budget request of GH¢325,547,304 -- leaving a funding gap of 54 percent.

With a combined student population of 53,078, the amount that government spends on a polytechnic student per year is only GH¢2,836.

This amount, the committee said, may be compared with the euro equivalent of about GH¢18,000 (on the average) that the German government spends on a student attending a University of Applied Sciences.

For quality skills training in the future, the committee recommended that the recurrent budgetary allocation to the converted polytechnics be at a level that corresponds to at least 50 percent of the unit cost for training students at similar institutions in Germany.

It added that the unit cost for training students in the technical universities should be at least GHC9,000. Assuming that the student population in the polytechnics grows to 60,000 in the next couple of years, the minimum recurrent cost to government in converting the polytechnics to technical universities is estimated at GHC540million per annum for the next three years.

Government in 2016 will convert all the ten polytechnics into technical universities in a bid to make them offer more practical programmes to develop middle-level manpower to facilitate development.

Dr. George Afeti, Executive Secretary, National Inspectorate Board who is the Chairman of the Committee, said the Ministry of Education should ensure that funding allocations to the converted polytechnics are commensurate with their status as technical universities.

Currently six polytechnics including the Koforidua Polytechnic, Kumasi Polytechnic, Ho Polytechnic, Takoradi Polytechnic, Sunyani Polytechnic and Accra Polytechnic are operating as technical universities beginning form the 2016/17 academic year.