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Public Universities Bill will destroy what universities represent – Prof Aryeetey

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Prof Ernest Aryeetey, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, has indicated that the Public Universities Bill, when passed into Act to govern how public universities are established and run will destroy everything universities are meant to represent.

According to him, universities do not just train people and confer degrees. Rather, universities are to generate knowledge which will be used for socio-economic development.

For this reason, what Ghana needs is “men and women who are curious about things happening around them, how development will go faster, how people are responding to things…as soon as you take away the incentive to be curious, that incentive to search for knowledge, you make universities useless,” Prof Aryeetey explained.

Speaking to Joy News [May 7, 2020], Prof Ernest Aryeetey noted that the Public Universities Bill seeks to do all that he highlighted and more.

He added, “The bill seeks to put in place a law that governs how universities are set up. The first thing we should ask those behind it is: ‘What makes it necessary to do that?”

He continued: “Every public university in Ghana has been set up on the back of an Act of Parliament and the Act specifies what the universities are expected to do,” adding that the respective Acts represent the charter given to universities to operate as public universities and outline the expectations of the people.

“When government set up a university, it gives the university the mandate to set up a Council with the principle of not interfering with the operations of the universities. The government owns the university but its operations, management and governance are entrusted to a council of people that can be trusted, [have] knowledge and the experience of running the universities but the new bill ignores all that exists in the [respective Acts] for that good reason and put in place one to govern all of them.”

Thus, Prof Aryeetey explained that the culture, history, style and governance arrangement structure are all ignored for no apparently good reason.

Prof. Ernest Aryeetey said one of the reasons accompanying the bill to Parliament is: “Even though at the establishment of each public university, roles were defined for the public universities, almost all the public universities have veered away from their core discipline.”

The second reason Prof. Aryeetey said is about universities having a lot more resources than they used to have and in the last few years, every report by the Auditor General has exposed financial impropriety by the universities.

“Is there more financial impropriety at the universities than the rest of the public sector?” he quizzed.

Prof Aryeetey argued further that financial impropriety by the universities can never be cured by new laws but by enforcement of the old law.

“If you found Vice-Chancellors being negligent, deal with them, if registrars are being negligent, deal with them. If you have to put people in prison, put them in prison but simply saying because there were some financial improprieties by the universities we are putting aside all the laws and put in place one law, it doesn’t solve that problem…if financial impropriety is the problem then the solution is not a new law,” he stressed.

About the Public Universities Bill

The proposed Public University Bill, when passed, will change the structure of the governing councils of public universities with the majority of members being appointed by the President.

It will be a deviation from the norm, where the university members are normally in the majority.

The admission of students into public universities will also be altered with the introduction of a centralized system.


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