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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Columnist: Blege, Alex

Political convenience and the autonomy of UDS campuses

Alex Blege

The University for Development Studies (UDS) has been in the news for some time now. The reason is: the autonomy of each of the four campuses dotted in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions. Prior to the full establishment of the university, various recommendations were made on the structure of the university as well as location of each campus.

In an academic article, “The Politics of Multi-Campus Location in Ghana: the Experiences of the University for Development Studies (Kuu-ire S.M., Ghana Journal of Development Studies 2005 edition, Volume 2, Number 2), the author states the smoothness that characterised the location of the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology School of Mines, Tarkwa and the adoption of the Kumasi and Mampong Campuses as colleges when the University of Education was established.

However, prior to the establishment of the UDS in the four regions – Brong Ahafo, Northern Region, Upper East, and Upper West, there was much acrimony and dissenting views along regional lines. And this threatened the very foundation of the university. In all of this ensuing acrimony according to the author, the Brong Ahafo was the only region on the sidelines.

It’s this threat that has lived on and has been conveniently used by politicians to further their ambitions. The multi-campus structure of the University for Development Studies has been described as a novelty. In fact, the current Vice Chancellor, Professor Gabriel Ayum Teye states that countries such as Senegal and Angola have taken the opportunity to come and study how Ghana was able to have a university that is dedicated to development and is running on a multi-campus structure.

As much as it’s important that every region in Ghana deserves a fair share of infrastructural development, there must be serious considerations on how these infrastructural development is pursued without destroying what’s already built.
According to the author of the above article, the Benneh Taskforce and the Hazel Committee Reports recommended the location of the campuses and the accompanying faculties: Brong Ahafo Region (Sunyani and Kintampo campus - Community Health Diploma Programme and Training of Medical Assistants and Renewable Natural Resource respectively), Northern Region (Nyankpala Campus – Medical Science Programme and Faculty of Agriculture respectively), Upper East (Navrongo Campus – Faculty of Applied Sciences and Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Technology) and in the Upper West (Faculty of Integrated Development Studies).

On the basis of the above, it is important to note that the UDS was established to have a multi-campus to meet the human resource development needs of the four regions initially; however, currently the UDS is only three regions – North, Upper East and Upper West. The conversion of the various campuses into autonomous universities defeats the purpose for which it was established – a move that‘s influenced by “political convenience” as Professor Daniel A. Bagah puts it.
There’s nothing wrong with establishing different universities which address different problems confronting any of the three regions of the North. There’s the need to take a critical look at the gaps in the development of human resource in other sectors of our national development and establish institutions that would meet the demands of that yawning gap.

In Ghana, politics has become an intrinsic part of our lives that it’s impossible to look at issues from an apolitical angle. Political promises are derived from the needs of the populace; however, sometimes the politician seeks to take the path of convenience in meeting the demands of the populace, thereby creating more problems than what had existed.

It has been argued that, when each of the campuses is made autonomous, these campuses will then be run on a multi-campus system. However, this will not put an end to the “politics” that has consistently underpinned the demand to make each of the campuses autonomous – it may take a different trend.

As stated earlier, all regions in Ghana deserve a fair share of infrastructural development, but infrastructural development shouldn’t be pursued to satisfy political gains. Infrastructural development must meet the needs of a region, not to score political gains. The UDS is a model multi-campus university. It’s important that this model is kept, nurtured and sustained to enable her achieve the mandate for which it was established. The focus should rather be on resourcing each of these campuses adequately – lecture halls, hostel facilities, and other facilities that give every student and alumnus a reason to brag, aside the matchless feat that the UDS student and alumni are “development experts”.
In spite of the challenges that threatened its very foundation, the UDS has come this far – almost twenty five years of existence and there’s so much to write home about.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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