Education Ministry Responds To John Mahama On Public Universities Bill

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Former President John Mahama

The attention of the Ministry of Education has been drawn to a publication by the flagbearer of the NDC, Mr. John Mahama on his website, calling on the government to withdraw the Public Universities Bill currently before Parliament.

In the said article, Mr. Mahama, without citing specific sections of the bill, nonetheless argued that if passed into law, it will undermine academic freedom, research and innovation. He also states that should the bill pass into law, his government will initiate processes for its repeal if he wins the 2020 elections.

In response, the Ministry wishes to state as follows;

In May 2018, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, in consultation with the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTE), commissioned a team of experts with a mandate to, among others, ‘produce a reference document pooling together various isolated policies in use, and institutional best practices that will position institutions to better discharge their mandate’. This followed earlier discussions in 2017 between the Minister for Education and Vice Chancellors Ghana (VCG) on government’s policy intentions.

Subsequently the draft policy document produced was shared with stakeholders and a validation workshop held from 10-12 January 2019 in Koforidua. The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) VCG and NCTE attended the workshop, among others.

The revised policy document was approved by cabinet and subsequently Parliament on 9 May 2019 as the Tertiary Education Policy. This policy was launched in June 2019 at the Law School auditorium in University of Ghana.   This and others formed the basis of the Public Universities Bill currently before Parliament.

The Ministry would like to put it on record that it has extensively engaged stakeholders on this matter, having invited, and received, memoranda from the various public universities and other stakeholders.

The Honourable Minister has on several occasions met the leadership of UTAG to discuss their concerns about various aspects of the bill and some progress has been made. UTAG has also had the opportunity to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education to voice its concerns, which have been taken into account.

Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh

Government does not accept the view that the bill, when passed into law, will stifle academic freedom and undermine research and innovation. Did the passage of Technical University Act signed into law by John Mahama stifle academic freedom or stifle individual technical universities autonomy?

In addition to the restoration of the Book and Research Allowance, abolished by the NDC government, this government has recently approved a 200% increase in the research allowance, from the GHS500 introduced under His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufuor, to GHS1,500. Further to this, government has laid before Parliament, the Ghana Research Fund Bill, whose purpose, when enacted into law, is to establish a Ghana Research Fund to provide for funds and to support national research in tertiary and research institutions.

Ex-President Mahama is entitled to speak on any matter but must first be educated and informed.  It is wholly unacceptable for a person of his stature to pander to partisan politicking on such an important issue without ascertaining the facts simply because it is an election year. This smacks of desperation. Ghanaians are yearning for clear, innovative policy alternatives from the political parties, not mere promises of reviews and abolitions/repeals.

The Ministry wishes to assure the general public that it is committed to the engagement process with the relevant stakeholders and is confident that eventually, the bill will receive the necessary approvals to enable it pass into law and help reform the tertiary landscape to the ultimate benefit of this nation.

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

Press Secretary to the Minister