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Opinions of Monday, 16 October 2006

Columnist: twinbrow@tiscali.co.uk

Private Tertiary Education: A Blessing Or A Curse In Disguise

Tertiary education in Ghana has seen a great change over the past few years. Gone are the days when the nation had only 3 universities ( Legon, U.S.T and Cape Coast) which tried to cope with an ever increasing population of prospective undergraduate students.

Now there are many private universities; Methodist, Central, Valley View and Ashesi to mention a few. Since tertiary education in Ghana is one of the most sought after ways to succeed in life, this exciting new avenue of offering tertiary study makes a way for students who would not have gained admission into any of the 3 national universities. One would however want to know if this age of private universities is offering competition in this globalised world or just an opportunity for mass education and wealth for the founders of these institutions.

With this, I will attempt to explore and form a background for debate on this new found ‘blessing or curse in disguise’

What a Blessing

Many aspiring students can now breathe a sigh of relief when they approach tertiary education. There is choice of where to study and staying home for a year or more is a thing of the past. Private universities have also been a saviour to many workers (popularly known as matured students) who aim for improved position and benefits in their workplace after graduation. Most graduates have high hopes of a good job waiting –at least, without having to join the unemployment band.

Is this a Real Curse?

Many however I believe have not thought about the price that comes with mass education in a country that jobs are hard to come by. Ghana may find itself in a similar situation like Nigeria where educated people with degrees find no jobs. We are further disadvantaged because provision of jobs for these prospective skilled graduates does not match their rate of intake into these tertiary universities. Most will graduate without any work experience and will meet with adverts for jobs that require five or more years experience to fill. To begin with I ask myself how one can get experience if he or she has no job to gain experience from. This is food for thought.

There is the issue of accreditation. To what bodies are these private universities accredited and will their graduates compete in the global village we find ourselves in. As Ghana is gradually attracting investors, we should be sure our graduates are competitive enough to be employable. We must bear in mind that these investors will definitely seek skills that graduates in their home countries will have. This is when we will be tested as to whether these graduates were mass produced or met requirements of accreditation boards. Prospective students need to ask some fundamental questions – is my university accredited and if so to what organisations of accreditation? Can I compete in the international market? Is my certificate recognised by foreign universities if I need to further education overseas?

This is where the conundrum arises. Have these private universities lived up to their expectation as an educational institution for their students and the nation or just made themselves rich with the savings of families and students?

Private versus National Universities

When the national universities were not coping with student numbers yet were forced to increase their intake instead of increasing facilities before doing so, we found and still find lecture theatres packed with students, some sitting outside lecture theatres for lectures. I really wonder what education those sitting outside lecture rooms will benefit from. We can decide this for ourselves.

We have always pegged ourselves to standards of America and UK yet we hardly meet any of their standards. Which university in UK or America has students sitting outside lecture theatres for lectures and students scrambling for facilities? That university will not last a week. I wonder why our very educated lecturers and Vice Chancellors (VC) cannot stand up to ensure the good reputation of our universities is upheld. All these affect accreditation and very soon if these issues are not addressed we will see our universities losing their prestige.

I was excited about private universities because I thought overcrowding and inadequate facilities were a thing of the past. After all they are more expensive than the national ones and are expected to be of higher standard. This is however not the case. I think students should be questioning the lecturers and VC in private universities about this. One wonders whether there is a regulator for tertiary education in the country at all.

The Case of Central University College

Central university seems a big disgrace to private tertiary education. This is an institution that runs 4 sessions per semester/term; morning, afternoon, evening and weekends. There is nothing wrong with this but one would wonder if this is a money making venture or an institution to educate and give skills to students. How many hours of lectures do each of these sessions have a week? Are facilities for the various courses enough for the students? Are there different lectures for the different sessions or the same ones? If the latter is the case one should pity the lecturers and wonder the sort of service they offer the students.

For this academic year, some students had not even received their admission letters on the Friday when university reopened the following Monday. Infact some students had to go to the university to collect their letters. If a student living in Bolgatanga is in such a situation how will he/she feel. What type of service is this?

Some students on their offer letter are given one session only to be told when they are paying fees at registration that their session is full and that they have to take a different one. The question is; do admission officers not know how many students are for each session? Authorities should not shirk their responsibilities because they think students are desperate for an education. They are expected to administer higher quality of service so that students can learn from them.

It looks like the university is just interested in money more than their primary goal. I will be amazed if the founder of the university knows this is what goes on in his institution.

With the establishment of the school of applied sciences to include civil engineering and architecture, one must ask what infrastructure and facilities are available for the new school.

Will it be another avenue for more resources at the expense of students? The body responsible for tertiary education need to better regulate private universities or else this bright idea will be another disaster waiting to happen. Students will be the biggest losers.

Is private tertiary education indeed a blessing or curse? This is food for thought!



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.