The latest to oppose the draft Public Universities Bill is a professor of law who has said the bill is an affront to the independence of Universities. But the Education Ministry has rejected the claim.
The Ministry of Education is currently soliciting views on a proposed Public Universities Bill.
Among other things the bill seeks “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.”
It was Professor Ransford Gyampo, a lecturer of the University of Ghana who in opposition to the draft bill, said he is prepared to shed blood.
“You underpay us and we don’t complain. But we would resist attempt to touch our academic freedom with our blood,” he said in a Facebook post.
Joining the crusade to oppose the bill, Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua said reserving majority slots on the University Council for government appointees, giving the right to appoint the Council Chairman to government, deferring the power to dissolve Council and reconstitute an interim one to government amounts to grave attempts at undermining academic freedoms.
“There is no involvement from the university. There is a deviation from the previous means of doing things. The government should not interfere with academic freedoms. This bill completely undermines academic freedom,” the distrust Professor of law blurted out.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Monday Appiagyei-Atua argued that if the government has a controlling stake in the University Council it will indirectly have government influencing University appointments, financial commitments and the universities’ relation with other external bodies as Council is ceased with the power do these.
Professor Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua is with the school of law, University of Ghana,Legon
The law lecturer is concerned that if government’s excessive powers in the management of university are not checked, research content may be influenced, bidding for contracts may be tempered with and this generally portends ill for the teaching and learning environment as government will be breathing on their necks to do its bidding.
The Professor of law suggests that this is not just a university versed Government issue. According to him, the implication of substituting rights of academic freedom with unchecked government influence would mean that international democratic rating bodies will keep scoring the country low marks on its performance in advancing the frontiers of democracy.
Response from Government
But the government is fighting back. Vincent Asaffouh, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education, thinks the reading of motives into what is a well-intended act of government to update the countries Universities Act into a modern one is premature.
“The laws governing universities are outmoded and the laws of various universities differ from each other,” he told Daniel Dadzie on the SMS minutes after Asaffouragyei-Atua had had his turn.
At the very worse, he said the bill is not yet a law, and government is interested in inviting inputs from all stakeholders to incorporate into what will become the final law.
Vincent Asaffouh, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education
He argued that for good corporate governance, a good board, like a university council, must have more external members than those from within for the purposes of the democratic principle of checks and balances.
“That may bring the quality needed. If internal representation is more it undermines accountability,” he said.
According to him, even though the new bill is not instigated by recent happenings on the campuses of the University of Education and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology, it, however, should guide critics to back the policy to check excessive internal controls which have accounted for some of the disturbances as witnessed on these campuses.