The Ministry of Education has explained that the Public Universities Bill is intended to harmonise the management of public universities.
Explaining the rationale behind the bill in an exclusive interview in Accra yesterday, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, said there was no intention whatsoever in the bill to curtail the academic freedom and autonomy of public universities.
For instance, he said, while appointment to the Governing Council of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) was for a period of two years, the governing councils of the other universities had a three-year term.
Additionally, he said, while some of public universities had 12-member governing councils 12, others had 15 or 21.
“It is some of such inconsistencies and lack of uniformity in the management of public universities that we seek to harmonise to ensure that when you talk about Ghana universities, we are singing the same tune,” he said.
Prof. Yankah gave an assurance that the government was not interested in the diversity aspect of the universities and had no intention of touching on that aspect.
The bill, submitted to the public universities for their input, has elicited mixed reactions from a section of the public and stakeholders, including some university lecturers.
While some of the stakeholders contend that the bill seeks to take away academic freedom and the autonomy of public universities, the Ministry of Education says the reactions are premature because the document is only a draft.
Prof. Yankah was of the opinion that his “colleagues in academia panicked too soon.
Their reaction was premature panic, unnecessarily dramatised, exaggerated and needless and smacked of lack of trust in the system, lack of trust in the government and about its sensitivity to democracy, academic freedom and institutional autonomy”.
“It also amounts to underrating the calibre of people we have in the ministry and in government who have administered universities for years, including our board of advisers, such as Prof. J. Anamoah-Mensah, Prof. Mohammed Salifu, my good self and the sector minister,” he stated.
He, therefore, advised those kicking against the document, which he described as “near zero draft of a bill”, to hold their breath because no one was interested in denying public universities academic freedom.
Giving a background, Prof. Yankah said the whole issue was about the leaking of a draft document which was submitted in confidence to respective vice-chancellors as a way of getting their buy-in as key stakeholders in tertiary education.
He said there was no way the government could come up with a new policy without getting the input of stakeholders because they were going to drive the policy.
Expectation of government
He said what the government expected was for the stakeholders to critique the document and make their comments, suggestions and recommendations.
“That will then form the basis for the internal consultation with the ministry for the