Public Universities Shifting Focus from Core Mandates – MPs

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Some parliamentarians have expressed worry over the seeming shift of the country’s universities from the core mandate Parliament gave them when they were set up.

According to the legislators, the worrying trend has dire consequences on the future of education in the country, as these tertiary institutions are training people in areas that are different from what society demands.

On the floor of the House yesterday, some members took turns to comment on an item for the day, which sought to set in motion the process of getting another university in Wa, Upper West Region, a report which was presented by the Committee on Education.

The Committee’s report was on the University of Business and Integrated Development Studies Bill, 2018, seeking to turn the Wa campus of the University of Development Studies (UDS) into internationally-acclaimed applied research and practical-oriented educational institution.

Commenting in favour of the motion, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, believed there should be a national conversation again on the future of higher education in Ghana.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, noted that “now all our tertiary institutions; whether it is University of Ghana; is University of Cape Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; is the University for Development Studies are departing from their core mandate and core mission and value. When you set up an institution, all of them are interested in training persons in marketing; training persons in social sciences.”

He argued that the world was not going with marketing today, explaining that the country must have the universities redefine their mandate and stay consistent with the mandate that Parliament gave them.

“When you have university of science and technology depart away from science when the world is moving into applied sciences and engineering, yet they are training nurses, and even moving to be interested in training lawyers.

“University of Ghana also departing from Bio-Chemistry, Physics, and other departments also moving into other areas. University of Cape Coast also moving. What does Ghana need between 2020 and 2030, in terms of our manpower requirements, and then we must compel the universities to produce what the country will require, not what they will produce, or what they seem as desirable,” he expatiated.

Haruna said there was a disconnect between what the universities are bringing out, and the manpower needs of the country. He further argued that at a time the country has discovered oil, it was proper its universities train people who could work in that sector for instance.

Also commenting on the subject, the MP for Mporhor, Alex Agyemkum, who shared the same sentiments as the Minority Leader, expressed that it was necessary to find out why the universities were doing that.

Attempting to give the crux of the matter, the MP said: “Sometimes you find the universities trying to survive, and by surviving, it tries to enter into some areas that is not the mandate,” thus, advocating for proper resourcing of various public universities by providing the basic things they require.

Apart from that, he stated that in the midst of dwindling resources for education, it was imperative that the country looked at what course students were made to learn.

He argued that the situation where students present certificates to society on what they learnt in school must change, for emphasis to be placed on situations where society let students be trained on utilities so that students are trained with reference to what society requires.

On his part, Clement Apaak, MP for Builsa South, said that like many speakers had clarified, there seems to be a situation where tertiary institutions veer off their core mandate. He suggested that, if possible, “we could consider motivating or even cajoling already existing public universities to revert to their core mandate.”

He debated that it was not helpful for all the tertiaries to offer the same courses, and urged for a focus on specialisation.

Commenting on the motion, the MP for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, advocated for local content, quoting portions of the Committee’s report, which touched on local content.

Paragraph 3, page 2, of the report read in part: “The objective of setting up the university (UDS) was to provide an interface between the academia and the community to stimulate the development of northern Ghana in particular, and the country as a whole…”

That, he said, clearly pointed out that upon the setting up of the Wa University, that relationship should be there. But, “how can this be done?” Afenyo quizzed, stating that it should not be mere talk, but rather put in action.

He lamented that universities in Ghana cannot boast of setting up an endowment fund for the local people, just to mention a little of what some universities abroad do for their local communities.

“I am, therefore, looking forward to an amendment when we come to the consideration stage, where we will state categorically that local content should be part of the core responsibilities of the university.”

The MP for Wa West, Joseph Yieleh Chireh, debated that some universities may be seen departing from their core mandate because they need to survive. He said many of the universities find it easy to introduce courses that will attract people to raise money, so they tend to deviate from their mandate. He then called for substantive support for public universities.

Meanwhile, a Minister of State, in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, who moved the motion and so had the opportunity to wrap up, said the universities had not departed from their core mandate

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