Making the case for the University Ghana (UG)

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 Source: Arthur, Patrick Kobina

: Progress is being made to put UG on a powerful growth trajectory.

Recent News: University of Ghana receives funding for PhD training

Then someone asked:

Does the University of Ghana have the capacity at the present time, in terms of human resources, to offer a serious PhD programme in any department of the university? From what anecdotal evidence I have of the quality of some of its graduate programs, I doubt that very much. Why not focus on arresting the decline in the quality of its undergraduate and masters programs, instead of making this big leap into PhD training.

Here is my take:

I work there and I know that we have unused capacity for PhD training. If you understand the university system worldwide, it will be easier for you to link the quality of undergraduate programmes and PhD training. UG has so many top-rate faculty members who are not training the number of PhDs they deserve to. The teaching load issue is only in a few courses NOT the whole University. The output of the University is actually a question to society, parents, and basic education, not just the university. You do not put just anyone in a University and expect wonders; the people must be prepared and ready.

A case in point is the year-to-year change in student learning power, which is just shocking. In one year you have 50% easily getting first class; truly genius. In the end not all maintained their first class but at some stage in their training 50% were above that mark. With almost zero re-sits. The very next year you have a class that re-sits so many papers and that is the picture. The vast majority of people coming into the University are unsuitable and unprepared and that is the critical point. You cannot force people not to be excellent, if they are that good it will show. UG is on a powerful growth trajectory. Ghanaian should support. Many international agencies are pushing some resources.

The fortunes of UG have suffered at some point in its history, things got critical in 2006 at UG but things have long turned around and the institution is much stronger now. The new funding programme is designed to make UG a Pan-African Doctoral Training Academy. The same funder, the Carnegie Foundation is already supporting a programme called "UG-Diaspora linkage programme". Several Ghanaian scholars working abroad have spent 1-2 years teaching and doing research at UG. So it not true that this programme is tailor made for diaspora people to get a Ph.D in African Studies at UG.

UG is determined to grow and there are several positive developments. Please spread the news and also check the homepage regularly for news and facts. Those using one-off situations to make a broad representation can use some more information. These international agencies that are providing funding to UG will not knowingly throw money away if UG is not unto something positive.

It is not a case of pretending that the UG is doing just fine. We all know full well that the University has a long way to go. What we all need to understand is that the University is the baby of the society. If we all want to reap where we do not sow, how can we build a world-class university? Many units of the University are doing very very well. Noguchi Memorial Institute for Biomedical Research (built with Japanese money, operates with grants from US, UK, Swiss, Denmark, etc etc). Noguchi actually now operates off the ECG grid, why? The Japanese Government installed a solar farm. Other units doing very well are the School of Public Health, Economics Department, Earth Sciences Department, Law Faculty, School of Communication Studies, UG Business School, Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS), Institute of Social, Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER), etc etc. Not to leave out my own Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. Do you know about the two new World Bank funded African centres of excellence (ACE) WACCI and WACCBIP? UG was the only University in West and Central Africa that won two of the fifteen World Bank ACE. And WACCBIP is brainchild of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. We cannot claim these are all BAD news? Problems still, yes, there are more out there but so much is also happening and we need to be grateful and keep growing. There are many game changing developments on the University of Ghana campus and I see this University finally spearheading the development of Ghana in a very significant way. So for me I am encouraged to do my best and I want to let the world know that.

To mention that the university should focus on its strengths which in African studies is very wrong. A big University of 30,000 students should be strong only in its African Studies Department? Oh please. No University is built on a single department or even a single faculty. There is so much to the University than the snippets of anecdotes being relied on by most people in the appraisal of the University’s performance. It’s interesting to be asking whether anyone thinks UG has the capacity for the 30,000. It’s actually not the choice of UG to have 30,000. Ghana does not have the higher education institutional capacity for its youth. That is the problem here. So there is pressure on the few existing ones to take in more. It’s all a function of the society we are in today. And the capacity must be built and UG will not just sit there and hope that one day the capacity will appear. I already have stated a number of initiatives aimed at building more capacity to buttress this point. There are still many people incessantly posing the question: whether it was not better for UG to concentrate its limited resources to build a strong faculty to deliver improved undergraduate training? But here is the care where the answer to this question is in the question itself. You cannot have improvements in the calibre of faculty of a university when there is no graduate work at the PhD level. PhD level graduate work is the engine of academic progress and the generation of new knowledge. You cannot separate the two. It does not happen anywhere in the world. UG has many elements aligned now for a major lift off, to show the way for progress for Ghana and Africa.

Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD) || parthur14@gmail.com || http://pakar1-corner.blogspot.com/

Columnist: Arthur, Patrick Kobina