Public University Bill Will Make Education Minister A Dictator If Not Rejected – Says Prof. Aryeetey
Former Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey
Former Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey has called on parliament to reject the Public University Bill and fix problems of governance at the various universities.
According to him, the problems being faced by the universities are solvable hence government should figure ways to fix them rather than implementing a bill which will not solve the existing problems.
He said, “my appeal to parliament is if there are problems with governance at the universities, let us fix them. They can be fixed easily. Let’s take out the politics and fix those problems. Let us not rush into having this law because this law will not solve the problem that it says it’s going to solve.”
Speaking on the PM Express, he highlighted that should the bill be passed into law, the Minster for Education will be the only one to have the final say on every decision any universities’ council makes.
“This law only will make the Minister of Education more powerful. It will turn him into the senior Vice Chancellor of this country…the Minister of Education acting through the Tertiary Education Commission. That’s what it seeks to do. To turn the Minister into the final decision maker of how universities are run,” he added.
This he believes is a reinforcement of the fear of ministers interfering with the way universities are run.
He expressed worry about “anybody who wants power that he or she does not have by law and they create the law to give them power. It isn’t right.”
Prof. Aryeetey emphasized that the implementation of the bill will render universities’ authorities useless as it disregards what the universities represent.
This he explained by saying,
“the bill seeks to bring into place only one law that will govern how universities are set up…what this new bill does is that, it ignores all existing acts without good reason.”
According to him, the bill also controls the universities instead of empowering them as well as requires government’s consent before any agreement is signed. This he believes undermines the authority of those put in charge of the various universities.
Although he admits that the Public University Bill encourages specialization, he suggested that government should allow universities solve their issues independently.
Commending the Ghanaian universities for their contributions in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, he indicated that they have done very well citing the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) as an eminent example.
He also noted that the pandemic has churned the tertiary educational system to adapt to the online learning system.
“For a long time, African universities had been struggling with the whole concept of distance education. The absence of the right infrastructure, that has been the major stumbling block and now out of necessity, we were able to mobilise and begin even if with problems,” he noted.
Public University Bill
The Public University Bill (2020, p. 4 & 5) outlines the aims of the bill. According to the document, the bill is to create, disseminate and preserve knowledge and understanding through teaching, skill development and research, scientific publications, technology transfer and extension; and community service.
It states that,
“in furtherance of subsection (1), a public university shall (a) subject to the availability of resources, make higher education equally accessible to all persons suitably qualified and capable to benefit from that education; (b) in furtherance of paragraph (a), ensure that the proportion of fee-paying students, at any time, does not exceed fifteen per cent of the overall enrolment and not more than sixty per cent in any programme that is designated as “fee-paying”; (c) apply modern tools, including information and communication technology for teaching, research, dissemination of knowledge and administration;” among others.
It also highlights that,
“a public university shall, in the performance of functions and the exercise of powers, be guided by the national values and principles of governance set out under article 38 of the Constitution, and shall in that regard (a) promote quality and relevance of the programmes of the public university; (b) enhance equity and accessibility of the services of the public university; (c) promote inclusive, efficient, effective and transparent governance systems and practices; (d) ensure adoption of best practices in management and mainstreaming of systems of checks and balances; and (e) institutionalise non-discriminatory policies and practices.”