Prime News Ghana

Public Universities Bill is backward, wrong-Kofi Bentil

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
Kofi Bentil

Senior Vice President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil says the idea for the introduction of the Public Universities Bill by Government is backward and very wrong.

Speaking on Joy FM's Newsfile on Saturday, April 13, Kofi Bentil said for government to try and bring all universities under one law in this bill will only allow politicians to have full control of the universities which will end up stifling academic freedom.

According to him, every university has its own philosophy for which it was built and different laws that govern them, therefore, putting them under one umbrella (Public Universities Bill) will be a backward action on the part of the government.

"The idea of making all the universities into one is very wrong. Each of the Universities in the country has a unique history and what they want to achieve. "

 The new Public Universities Bill signed by the Education Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh seeks to regulate the activities of public universities under one law. 

The proposed law seeks to change the structure of the governing councils of the public universities with the majority of the members being appointed by the President.

This will be a deviation from the norm, where the university’s members are normally in the majority. The admission of students into public universities will also be altered with the introduction of a centralised system.

Education Ministry defends University Bill

 The Minister for Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, in defending the new Public Universities Bill said government does not have any interest in stifling academic freedom in the country’s public universities, and, as such, debunked assertions that the government is clandestinely taking control of public universities through the introduction of the Universities Bill.

According to Dr Prempeh, the focus of the bill is to bring all public universities together under one policy, properly regulated under a well-defined scope of operation as has been done in other democracies across the world.

He said: “The President has given his word to all the Vice-Chancellors when they met him and assured him that the common admission platform will be ready for 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, but the government will not and must not and does not intend in any way to stifle academic freedom.”

Public Uni Bill will undermine autonomy of Universities-UTAG

The spokesperson of the University Teachers Association, UTAG Legon Chapter Professor Kwadwo Appiagyei -Atuah says the autonomy of universities will be undermined if the bill is passed into law.
Although the University of Ghana Legon chapter of UTAG says it is not opposed to the entirety of the bill it is unhappy with portions that specifically relates to the governance of the Universities.

In an interview with Joy News, Professor Kojo Appiagyei Etuah said if government goes ahead to pass the bill the autonomy of the University is going to be undermined.

''One major negative element of the law which violates academic freedom is the composition of the University Council, especially where it talks about the rotational position for certain institutions within the University including the University Teachers Association.

''The University teachers which play a major role at the University governance composition is compromised in the favour of the government, it means that the autonomy of the University is going to be sincerely undermined if this law should come into place''.