An Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ghana, Legon, has said comments by a spokesperson for the Education Ministry on Saturday, confirms his fears that the proposed Public Universities Bill will spell doom for higher education in the country.
Prof Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua said Saturday, May 30, 2020, on a news analysis programme on Accra-based Joy FM that the defence mounted by Ekow Vincent Assafuah for the government-sponsored Bill is evident that he lacks understanding of how higher institutions of learning are governed.
“He seems to display a complete ignorance of the university government system,” Prof Appiagyei-Atua said about Mr Assafuah’s submissions on the programme.
The PRO for the Education Ministry had said apart from the standardisation of Ghana’s universities that the Bill seeks to establish, it will also ensure financial accountability for managers of the universities’ coffers.
“If the University of Ghana, for instance, so decides that as part of its management mandate, they can secure a loan for the university, without recourse to the government…in stances that there is a default or a problem, the University of Ghana will now rush to the Ministry of Education or government that government should come to their aid,” he said.
According to Mr Assafuah, there is no denying that the Ministry of Education will always have a role to play in the administration of the universities in Ghana, hence the need for the Bill to be passed to streamline the nature of this role by government.
But reacting to Mr Assafuah’s comments, Prof Appiagyei-Atua said the university governance system operates on self-governance and institutional autonomy and for that to work, the university is given adequate space that should not be encroached upon.
“That space is for a specific purpose. It is to promote functional necessity of the university. Academic freedom has two dimensions – freedom from and freedom to. The freedom is for government to respect the university space so that if there are certain rights that are there, it shouldn’t seek to violate them.
“The governance is also to protect the university against violations by a third party and if it so happens it ensures that space is closed,” the Associate Professor of Law stated.
He added that the government has a duty to fulfil some obligations towards the universities such as the provision of infrastructure and so on, explaining that it is at this point that the accountability issue comes in.
According to him, there are existing laws that are adequate to regulate the accountability issue between government and universities.
Public Universities Bill
According to government, the Bill seeks to harmonise the governance, administration and accountability structures of public universities, but the academic community has mounted a fierce resistance.
Since the Bill was laid in Parliament in January last year, academicians have said the Bill will greatly stifle academic freedom.
When passed, the Bill will give the government the power to appoint majority of members of the University Council.
The Council will have the power to appoint and fire public university officials, including a Chancellor.
The Bill also gives the President the power to dissolve the University Council.
It also gives effect to the University Council to control the finances of the university and determine the allocation of funds.
In addition, there is a proposal to rename four public universities after various personalities.