The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) is stunned by the apparent disagreement between President Akufo Addo and his Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia on the status of the controversial Public University Bill that is currently before Parliament.
During the launch of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto a few weeks ago, Vice President Bawumia categorically opposed the bill that will put public universities will reduce the influence of the academic community on public universities and shift most of its control to the executive arm of government.
However, on September 4, 2020, in an interview with Oman FM, President Akufo Addo categorically stated that his government is determined to push the bill through saying the rationale for the new structures for universities, as contained in the bill, is “incontestable”.
“While we are relieved to see that the PUB is being given the attention it deserves in political discussions, we believe that its impact on Ghana’s higher educational system is too consequential to be merely a partisan or election issue,” said UTAG in a press statement released on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
UTAG has insisted that the new bill is unconstitutional and “unnecessary and harmful”.
“Regrettably, in recent times, we have witnessed acts of undue executive interference in the internal matters of public universities, in a manner that threatens the integrity of higher education in Ghana,” read the statement signed by Dr. Bethel Kwansa-Bentum Secretary to UTAG.
UTAG cited the attempt by the governing party to take over the governing structures of some public universities recently, for instance, the failed attempt to dissolve the governing council and to oust the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST and the unresolved confusion created by the Akufo Addo administration when it arbitrarily installed a new Vice-Chancellor at the University of Education-Winneba (UEW)
UTAG points out that the examples at KNUST and UEW are “handy examples of attempts at political control of public universities, without regard to existing laws and institutions (including the judiciary) set up to regulate universities. These attempts at political interference are capped by the Public University Bill.”
According to the sponsors of the bill, it is to ostensibly harmonise the laws that regulate public universities. But critics say it is a disguised attempt to expand the frontiers of executive power.
The provisions in the bill include the right of the President to dissolve the University Council and the organization of the Council to give the Executive majority representation. The bill also contains an explicit clause that allows the Minister of Education to give “directives” to the universities on any range of issues, with which “they shall comply”.
“Taken together with the flurry of other bills on education put forward by the Minister of Education, the PUB grants the Executive unprecedented political control over the entire educational system, and in a manner that is inconsistent with Ghana’s democratic credentials.” UTAG charged.
Opponents of the bill have warned that if allowed the bill will cause the Akufo Addo administration to destroy public universities in the country.