Public Universities Bill: Gov’t doesn’t intend to stifle academic freedom – Education Minister

The Minister for Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh has dismissed claims that the government is trying to subtly take control of public universities in the country through the new universities Bill.

Many have said the new Bill which grants more power in the management of public universities to the president and the Minister of Education will curtail academic freedom.

According to him, the government has remained transparent about the Bill and is only attempting to harmonize the various policies and regulations that govern public universities.

The Minister in a video published by a local tabloid said, there is enough assurance to all concerned stakeholders including the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), that the government will not take over control of the universities.

“The President has given his word to all Vice Chancellors, when they met him and assured him that the common admission platform will be ready for all universities to use in the 2021 academic year. The Vice Chancellors paid a courtesy call on the President and the President stated emphatically that he as a president and his government, have nothing to do with stifling academic freedom. In fact, this draft bill is the first bill in this country to try and define what we mean by academic freedom using examples of how other nations have developed it. If it has to be improved, we are hoping for that.. . the government cannot not, and will not and must not and it does not intend in any way to stifle academic freedom,” Dr. Opoku Prempeh said.

“It is a stakeholder consultation we are doing. The government has declared its intention fairly. It hasn’t hidden anything, it is open to suggestions, it is open to discussions on the various clauses,” he added.

The draft bill, which is already in the public domain has attracted wide public criticisms from many people including former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah.

Among the concerns raised over the Bill are the proposal for the number of University Council members to be reduced from 15 to nine, the power of the president to appoint five of the council members and the power of the president to dissolve the council in cases of emergency and put in place an interim committee.

Also, there is a proposal to rename four public universities after various personalities.

But they have not been received well by the public.

Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah in commenting on the draft said, “I think this bill is very dangerous and totally unnecessary. The bill has stated that if 5 council members out of the 9 meet to discuss some issues, the decision arrived at can take effect. This means that the 5 appointed by the president can sit and decide to overthrow the VC and that can happen. As a former VC and educationist, I just can’t understand what this whole bill is about. The Universities should be allowed to have their own laws governing them. The State shouldn’t give any legal guidelines. This bill is going to bring about micro-management of the Universities and that may render VC redundant,” he said.

The Minority in Parliament has also kicked against it with the Ranking Member on the Education Committee of the House, Peter Nortsu saying the draft in its current form undermines the authority of universities.

A former Deputy Education Minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa in an article also said the Bill, if allowed to pass, could become “a crude attack on the sacred principles of academic freedom”.

Concerning the renaming of some of the universities, US-based Ghanaian lawyer, Stephen Kwaku Asare, popularly known as Prof. Kweku Azar believes the move is unnecessary.

Source: citinewsroom

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