UTAG UG list 5 reasons why Public University Bill must be withdrawn
The University of Ghana (UG) branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has listed reasons why the Public University Bill (PUB) presented to parliament must be withdrawn.
They say the bill is a threat to Ghana’s democracy and higher education, a view the government has insisted is untrue.
In April 2019, the government through the Ministry of Education presented the Public Universities Bill to Parliament for approval.
The PUB would allow the President powers to appoint majority members on the university council; to close down any university and replace its governing council; allow the Minister of Education to give directives to the Universities on any matter, with which the Universities must comply; and take the process for admission of new students away from individual universities.
These additional powers to the president, the group says is a threat to Ghana’s democracy.
Meanwhile, President Akufo-Addo has dismissed claims that his government wants to control public universities
” The bill demonstrates the cardinal importance of the principle of academic freedom of the universities”
But addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the group listed five reasons why the bill must be withdrawn
- UG UTAG believes the bill is a violation of the 1992 constitution which explicitly denies the president powers to interfere in the running of a public university.
“The PUB violates the 1992 Constitution of our Republic. If passed into law, this new legislation would confer on the President powers that the 1992 Constitution explicitly denies him or her under Articles 68(1)(b) and 195(3). Through provisions in the Bill that give the Executive majority representation on the University Council and that allow the President to dissolve the Council, the President would effectively control universities.”
- They insist the bill will leave public universities at the mercy of the president and political players and which will eventually erode the universities of their objectivity role it plays in National discourse.
“The new law would thus erode the protections that the Constitution grants universities in order that they can effectively carry out their mandate of teaching, learning, and research; academics would become beholden to the political party in power, either as a result of direct interference or through self-censorship, and would cease to be the source to which the media and public can turn for impartial analysis of government policies.”
According to them, Universities through a number of laws are already accountable to all three arms of government.
- The bill will impede innovativeness
“The Bill will do more harm than it claims to fix. Having a one-size-fits-all piece of legislation for our diverse and unique universities will inhibit innovation. Let us not forget that, among other achievements, our public universities have turned out leading professionals in all fields and have produced innovative research, perhaps none felt as profoundly as during our current battle with Covid-19. These achievements have been in spite of dwindling subventions from the state over the years.”
- The group believes the bill will not only make the president but the minister of education too powerful.
“The Bill would hobble public universities by bringing them under the direct day-to-day management of the Minister of Education. Clause 47 of the Bill states, “The Minister may give directives on matters of policy through the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission to a public university and the public university shall comply”
“In effect, the law would allow one person—the Minister of Education – to make decisions that currently go through due consideration by a number of institutionalized bodies, including the University Councils.” Part of the statement read.
- The group argues that centralizing admission processes will only deny universities the ability to seek the best students for their unique programs.
“Again, by seeking to centralize University admissions under one platform, the Bill takes the process for admission of new students away from individual universities.”
“This would not only be cumbersome but would strip from universities the ability to seek the best students for their unique programs. Centralized admission, under the control of the government, would conceivably lead to pervasive nepotism and the expansion of ‘protocol admissions’, deepening the disadvantage of students without means or political connection.” The statement read.
With the aforementioned reasons, the group wants the bill withdrawn.
“To conclude, the PUB is unconstitutional, unnecessary, and deeply harmful to the integrity of our public universities. It poses a threat to the ability of students, lecturers, and administrators to carry out their day-to-day learning, teaching and research functions without fear of government dictates or reprisals.”
“We urge the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to exercise his constitutional powers to have the PUB withdrawn.”