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Opinions of Sunday, 24 February 2008

Columnist: Boakye-Yiadom, Michael

Accountability In Ghanaian Universities

Private Sector Funding Of Higher Education And Accountability In Ghanaian Universities

Private funding of higher education has been a significant feature of the history of higher education in most developed countries. American universities such as Johns Hopkins University, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have become world-class universities mainly due to funding and endowments from private individuals who share the vision and mission of these universities.

Funding of higher education in Ghana has become an issue ever since it became obvious that Government alone could not continue to fund public universities in Ghana. The issue of cost-sharing was then introduced to make parents/students bear some of the cost of tertiary education. Then came the introduction of fee-paying students in all the public universities. The establishment of private universities in Ghana has made payment of tuition at the tertiary level a common practice. The call for private individuals and corporate Ghana to support the funding of tertiary education has not seen any significant response. One can count the number of endowment funds in Ghanaian universities. The Sir Sam Jonah Endowment Fund of UCC easily comes to mind.

Though distance education, sandwich programs, attempts to commercialize research, and contributions from Alumni Associations have supported the fundraising activities of Ghanaian public universities, they have not been enough to support the universities. Of course, GET Fund has also been very helpful.

There is therefore the need for Ghanaian public and private universities to make conscious efforts to attract private funding. This, then, brings into focus the issue of Accountability in Higher Education. Ghanaian universities should begin to be seen as being more accountable to the public. The following areas of accountability may be recommended if private sector funding of higher education is to be achieved:

1. The difference between how much students pay and how much is spent on their training can be made public

2. The number of hours that lecturers spend in the classrooms, their offices, and at various libraries/museums for research purposes may be made known

3. The number of productive hours that administrators spend in their offices may be of interest to the public

4. University staff could be assessed and evaluated by students at the end of each semester, and the outcome of such evaluations may form a significant percentage for purposes of promotion and renewal of contracts 5. The public relations outfits of Ghanaian universities should be more professional in the discharge of their PR roles

6. Ghanaian universities should design websites that befit their status as higher educational institutions; and these websites should be resourceful.

Globalization and changing trends in higher education have made issues of accountability very crucial in the running of universities, and the time has come for universities in Ghana to wake to modern realities of university governance.

This, in my opinion, is the only way for Ghanaian universities to begin to attract significant private sector funding.


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