Flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Maham says he will initiate processes to repeal the Public Universities Bill if he becomes President.
The Bill which is currently before parliament is yet to be passed.
Mahama in a lengthy post said:" What our universities need is partnership. A partnership that fosters academic freedom, enhances their efficiency and also invests in research and development. The KNUST-INCAS COVID-19 rapid test kit innovation is one such outcome that is begging for support.
Our academics and students need support to focus on their core mandates of creating and sharing knowledge, not a Public Universities Bill that seeks to control and undermine the independence of our intellectuals and other researchers in state-owned universities.
The Bill as it stands does not only risk undermining academic innovation and ingenuity; it will also jettison decades of scholarly excellence and adversely affect Ghana’s position as the preferred destination for international scholarly collaboration.
As has been stated already by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, University Teachers, some former Vice-Chancellors, individual academics in the universities among many other stakeholders, there is absolutely no need for the Public Universities Bill. It must be immediately withdrawn from parliament.
In its current form, it is unclear what problems or challenges in higher education the Bill seeks to resolve. What is certain however is that, the Bill seeks to colonise public universities in the country, undermine academic freedom, stifle scholarly initiative, and subject research and researchers to needless and unproductive government control.
Government must listen to the concerns of key stakeholders and withdraw the Bill. I want to, however, assure the people of Ghana and the academic community that should government proceed and pass the Bill into an Act of Parliament, I will not hesitate to initiate steps for its immediate repeal, as a matter of priority, if God willing I assume office as President in January 2021.
Let me also renew the commitments I made during my meeting with the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) in Kumasi that as President, I will work with our universities to develop a comprehensive policy framework that promotes high quality research and rewards scholarly excellence.
Let’s respect the academic autonomy of the universities.
John Dramani Mahama
Sunday, June 14, 2020.
This new bill, according to the Minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, "is to provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities, principles of management of Public universities, the legal status of Public universities, the procedure for financing Public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of Public universities and related matters.”
However, its proposition and possible enactment into law has riled up academia and other civil society groups in the country.
For many in the University community, the proposed bill if passed will be an affront to academic freedom and leave the Universities to the manipulation of politicians.
One of the main fundamentals of the proposed bill is the setting up of University councils to oversee the activities and operation of the universities.
Currently, the composition of the council is primarily done by mechanisms instituted by the public Universities themselves, however, this new bill will leave the composition to the president of Ghana.
It will change the structure of the governing councils of public universities with the majority of members being appointed by the President.
It will be a deviation from the norm, where the university members are normally in the majority.
Under section 5 of the bill, it states that the president shall nominate a chairperson of the council as well as 5 other persons with which two will be women.
By this provision, many of the critics of the bill believe the positions will be stacked with people affiliated with a particular political party instead deserving and qualified persons.
Futhermore, the president has the power to dissolve the university council.