Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana (UG), Prof Ransford Edward Gyampo, has kicked against a draft Public Universities Bill by the Ministry of Education, saying when implemented it will hinder the progress of university staff on the academic ladder.
The draft bill which is yet to be presented to Parliament will provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities and principles of managing the institutions.
The draft Bill when passed into law will provide “the legal status of Public universities, the procedure for financing Public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of Public universities and related matters,” according to the Ministry of Education.
But Professor Gyampo who has read through the draft bill believes such a law will make lecturers and university administrators “bootlickers” in order to advance on the academic ladder.
“The Minister of Education will give directives as to how the school should be ran [when the Bill becomes law]” he said in Akan and continued that the composition of every public university council will have more government representatives than it is currently.
“…So if an independent person [on the council or a staff] who is due for promotion criticizes the government, their promotion could be delayed because the Minister can give an order to suspend every process and in the end one has to be a bootlicker before they could rise on the academic ladder,” he told host Mugabe Maase.
He continued, “The government wants to increase its representatives on the university council… it wants to control who becomes the chancellor and control the university council too, but we have our own electoral college that elects our vice chancellors.”
“…the government is seeking to reduce the composition of the Public University Councils from the average of 15 to 9. With this number, the government wants to appoint more people than other constituents,” the head of European Studies at the University of Ghana added.
To him, other clauses in the Bill will deny public universities academic freedom which will be inimical to the country’s education sector, adding that the misunderstanding between students of Kumasi-based Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the school authorities which resulted in the destruction of properties worth millions of cedis was resolved by the school council which is immune to government manipulations.
Prof Gyampo has since vowed to oppose the processes that will deny the universities their academic freedom, adding “we won’t stay aloof for the government to suppress us in that manner.”
Earlier, Prof. Gyampo had made a Facebook post and described the draft bill as “bogus”.
“This is the first step at mortgaging the independence and freedom of academic institutions. With a government controlled Council, people critical of government can be dealt with in any way. This would relapse independent minds into a culture of silence,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Clauses 5 and 12, the contentious clauses in the 48-clause bill stipulate among others that the governing body of a Public University is a Council which shall consist of the following nine members appointed by the President:
(a) a chairperson nominated by the President;
(b) the Vice-Chancellor;
(c) four persons nominated by the President, one of whom shall be a woman;
(d) one representative of the registered Unions in the university on rotational basis
(e) one representative of the University convocation elected by the convocation;
(h) one representative of the students of the University, nominated by the
Students’ Union; and
(j) one representative from the National Council for Tertiary Education who shall be a non-voting member.
It also states that the chairperson and other members of the Council shall be appointed by the President in accordance with article 70 of the Constitution.
The President may dissolve and reconstitute the council in cases of emergencies or appoint an interim council to operate for a stated period, according to the draft bill.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh has dismissed reports that government is seeking to stifle the academic freedom of the public universities.
“The President has given his word to all Vice Chancellors, when they met him and assured him that the common admission platform will be ready to use in the 2021 academic year,” he said in an interview with online news portal, abcnews.
He continued, “the Vice Chancellors paid a courtesy call on the President and the President stated emphatically that he as a president and his government has nothing to do with stifling academic freedom. In fact, this draft bill is the first bill in this country to try and define what we mean by academic freedom using examples of how other nations have developed it. If it has to be improved, we are hoping for that but the government will not and must not and does not intend in any way to stifle academic freedom.”