Prof Ernest Aryeetey, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana has indicated that the Public Universities Bill, when passed into law to govern how universities are established and run, will destroy everything universities are meant to represent.
According to him, universities don’t just train people and confer degrees on them, but rather, universities are to generate knowledge useful for social and economic development.
“For this, what he wants is men and women who are curious about things happening around them, how development will go faster, how people are responding to things…as soon as you take away the incentives to be curious, that incentive to search for knowledge, you make universities useless,” Prof Aryeetey explained.
In an interview with Joy News, Prof Ernest Aryeetey noted the Public Universities Bill seeks to do all that he has highlighted and more.
He said, “the bill seeks to put in place a law that governs how universities are set up. The first thing we should ask those behind it is ‘what makes it necessary to do that?”
He continued: “every public university in Ghana has been set up on the back of an Act of Parliament and the Act specifies what the universities are expected to do. That Act represents the charter given to universities to operate as public universities and outlines the expectations of the people.
“When government set up that university, it gives the university the mandate to set up a council with the principle of not interfering with the operations of the universities. The government own the university but its operations, management and governance are entrusted to a council of people that can be trusted, knowledge and has the experience of running the universities, but the new bill ignores all that exists in the Act for that good reason and put in place one to govern all of them.”
This, Prof Aryeetey explains further that, the cultural, history, style and the governance arrangement structure are all ignored for no apparent good reason.
Prof Ernest Aryeetey says one of the reasons accompanying the Bill to Parliament states that, “Even though at the establishment of each public university, roles were defined for the public universities, almost all the public universities have veered away from their core discipline.”
The second reason Prof Aryeetey says talks about universities having a lot more resources than they use to have and in the last few years, every report by the Auditor General has exposed financial improprieties by the universities.
“Is there more financial improprieties at the universities than the rest of the public sector?” he quizzed.
Prof Aryeetey states further that financial improprieties by the universities can never be cured by new laws but rather enforcement of the old law.
“If you found Vice-Chancellors being negligent, deal with them, if registrars are being negligent, deal with them. If you have to put people in prison, put them in prison but simply saying because there were some financial improprieties by the universities we are putting aside all the laws and put in place one law, it doesn’t solve that problem…if financial improprieties is the problem then the solution is not a new law,” he stressed.
About the Public Universities Bill
The proposed Public University Bill, when passed, 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.