Are private Ghana universities giving value?By FRANCIS KOKUTSE in Accra | Monday, May 7 2012 at 15:58
Ghanaians have started a national debate as to whether the involvement of the private sector in the establishment of universities has lowered academic standards and thus affected the quality of their graduates for the job market.
Growing demand for university education amidst a squeeze on the public budget has resulted in private entrepreneurs establishing universities all over the country.
But instead of contributing to national development, the trend is creating a teeming mass of unemployed youth, opening a debate on whether these institutions are playing a useful role.
Doesn't think much
The minister for employment and social welfare, Mr Moses Asaga, does not think highly of the private universities. “These institutions take mediocre students who graduate with sub-standard qualifications,” he added.
There is ample proof for this. Last month, the National Accreditation Board (NAB) ordered one of the private universities, the Methodist University College (MUC), to withdraw 1,465 unqualified students it had admitted to to pursue degree programmes.
And last year, the And whereas former Education minister Betty Mould-Iddrisu conceded to innovation and variety being introduced, she nonetheless felt quality was being sacrificed.
“While some of the private institutions have succeeded in introducing innovations in course design and delivery in response to challenges in the labour market, others have given cause for worry about the quality of education they provide,” she told Africa Review in an interview last year.
For this reason, Mrs Mould-Iddrisu explained, the National Council for Tertiary Education and National Accreditation Board (NAB) had been created.
The government has put in place a strategic plan for 2010-20 that projects primary education to grow by more than Cedis5 billion ($3.26 billion) by 2020.
This will result in demand for more higher institutions and universities, which currently number 55 spread all over the country.
Unfortunately, graduates from both private and public universities are having a problem getting employment.
Yet available statistics suggest the economy is booming; inflation is at 14.5 per cent, and last year the country was declared the fastest growing economy in the world.
The government says it has created 1.7 million jobs in the last three years but, this has not absorbed the number of the teeming numbers of jobless graduates.
Surprisingly, there are no official statistics on the level of unemployment, though it is widely accepted the true figures are frightening.
A worried general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of Ghana, Mr Kofi Asamoah, told a May Day parade in Accra: “Joblessness is on the rise. Nearly all new jobs are being created in the informal economy while incomes are low and workers have very little protection from the country’s labour laws.”
He blamed policy makers for failing to address the “monumental challenges” confronting domestic industries which he said had compelled many local manufacturing firms to convert their factories to warehouses “as they join the lucrative import trade.”
Mr Asaga directly linked the problem to “the proliferation of university colleges in this country admitting mediocre students."
Most people agree with Prof Charles Kwarteng, who ironically teaches at a private a private institution in Accra called Regent University College of Science and Technology, that private universities have simply become a business which entrepreneurs have tapped into without much concern for the future of the students.
"There is no strategy around which area the graduate students would fit into the national economy, because the owners do not show any overall concern for national development,” Prof Kwarteng added.
The problem, most experts say, is that the private sector is not growing sufficiently to absorb the graduates flooding the job market.
Compounding the problems, the experts say, is the fact that many employers prefer employing Ghanaian graduates from Europe and Ghana, some of them fleeing the economic downturn in the West.
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