Over Attempt To Stifle State Universities
Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah Prof. Ransford Gyampo
A former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ivan Addae Mensah, has joined the mounting opposition to the draft universities bill, describing it as “dangerous and totally unnecessary”.
He said, the bill and its proposals are backward and will take universities back to the 60s.
“I think this bill is very dangerous and totally unnecessary. The constitution of Ghana seeks to protect tertiary institutions from government interference. If the bill says the President can appoint the Chancellor it means he can disappoint the Chancellor. In all, the President can appoint about 5 council members and that is dangerous.
“The bill has stated that if 5 council members out of the 9 meet to discuss some issues, the decision arrived at can take effect. This means that the 5 appointed by the president can sit and decide to overthrow the VC and that can happen. As a former VC and educationist, I just can’t understand what this whole bill is about. The Universities should be allowed to have their own laws governing them. The State shouldn’t give any legal guidelines. This bill is going to bring about micro-management of the Universities and that may render VC redundant,” Prof. Mensah told Francis Abban on the Morning Starr yesterday.
He added the bill will allow government through its councils to have power over who gets admission into public universities in the country.
The first to publicly oppose the bill is a lecturer at the University of Ghana Professor Ransford Gyampo.
Some of the proposals in the Bill grant; a) the President power to dissolve the university Council; b) Allow the university Council to appoint a Chancellor and c) Allow unions to appoint only one representative on a rotational system to serve on the Council at each cycle.
The minority has described the proposals as worrisome. According to them, the bill, which is yet to be laid in Parliament has severe consequences as far as academic freedom and the autonomy of universities are concerned.
Speaking to Starr News Minority Spokesperson on Education Peter Nortsu asked for more voice like that of Prof. Gyampo against the draft bill
“We expect the University dons to also make their voice clear, once they do that wisdom will bear on us to do the right thing….If they [majority] want the good of this country, universities to excel then I expect the majority to also oppose it when it is finally laid,” Mr Nortsu told Starr News’ Parliamentary correspondent, Ibrahim Alhasan.
He added that lecturers must strongly oppose the bill adding that there is nothing good in the Public Universities Bill.
A former education minister Professor Dominic Fobi, has backed proposals in the controversial draft universities bill saying he does not see problems with the bill.
“I don’t think that should be a problem. The government appointing 5 council members does not necessarily mean government trying to control the universities if you ask me. There must be an indirect control of the President in Public universities as the government funds these universities,” he told Francis Abban on the Morning Starr Tuesday.
But IMANI Africa did not run out of adjectives when it variously characterized the yet to be introduced public universities bill as “backdoor arrangement,” “outmoded at birth,” “usurpation of the universities authority” and dictatorial.
Consequently, the President of the Policy think tank has called for the immediate withdrawal of the bill, which seeks to harmonize the administration of Public Universities in Ghana and reserve majority slots on the University Council for government appointees.
This has, however, ruffled feathers with some leading lights in the University community. A political science lecturer has threatened bloodletting in opposition to the bill.
But the government is unfazed as its spokespersons say government has been misunderstood in what is a well-intended initiative to introduce a modernized administration regime for managing universities.
Vincent Assafuah, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education spoke to JoyNews on the back of mounting oppositions to the bill, suggesting that had this bill been in place, recent happenings on the campuses of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University of Education Winneba would not have happened.
Assafuah intimated that having majority of the University Council’s members emanating from outside of the University is a good corporate governance practice as it serves as check and balance on university administrators.
“Actually a backdoor arrangement is the word I use to describe the bill,” Franklin Cudjoe, Senior Vice President of IMANI Africa, described.
“The University Council is going to be heavily diluted because you have six of the nine Council members going to be appointed by the president,” He told Daniel Dadzie, host of the Super Morning Show Tuesday.
He explained that the “bill seeks to usurp the authority of the university and by extension allow the Minister for Education to interfere in the processes of the university.”
Sounding dejected he asked: “Who actually is in demand of these reforms? Is it the university or this is just the government that is trying to ensure that it has its face in the management of the universities?”
Establishing his locus in the ongoing debate he asserted that “as a product of the university, I am worried about the centralization of university authority and treating the entire university ecosystem as one, this defeats academic freedom and defeats competition.
“I do not know whether reforms have now become less consultative. This is a whole anti-democratic process, I do not see why you want start consultation on dictatorship.” he exhaled in despair.