War on degrees – Dr. Tsikata vs Rev. Prof. Dr. Dr. Amartey

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 Source: Kwesi Tawiah Benjamin

Last month, the newly appointed Vice-Chancellors of two leading public universities in Ghana were inducted into office. Prof Ebenezer Owusu Oduro replaced Prof Ernest Aryeetey as the 12th Vice-Chancellor (VC) of University of Ghana while Prof Obiri-Danso became the new administrative head of KNUST.

Several weeks after their appointment, congratulatory messages continue to jostle for space in our newspapers. It is no mean honour and achievement to be appointed Vice-Chancellor. We say Mazaltov to them.

While Legon and KNUST were toasting their new VCs, the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA) also appointed Prof Abednego Feehi Okoe Amartey as Vice-Chancellor. He replaces pioneer VC Prof Joshua Alabi, who had served the university, formerly Institute of Professional Studies (IPS), for some two decades. On August 25, 2016, a seven member Search Committee recommended sitting Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof Amartey to the University Governing Council for appointment as VC.

Academic bastardization

Before the new VC will take over on January 1st 2017 for a four-year term, some members of the academic community are already contesting his appointment, describing it as “the most outrageous bastardization of Ghana’s university education since independence.” Dr. Prosper Yao Tsitaka, an assistant Professor of Communication Arts at Valdosta State University and Dr. Kobla Doste, Director of Chemical Research and Development, worry that the new VC acquired two doctorate degrees from weak and unaccredited universities in a shocking space of two years.

With biting sarcasm, they allege: “Indeed, the double doctoral degree holders from the Swiss Management Centre (SMC) and Central University of Nicaragua must be the most intelligent people our country has ever produced. They could teach, publish, enjoy family life, and undertake two well-constituted doctoral programs concurrently, with one of them pursuing an M.Phil. in addition.” They contend that Prof Amartey’s qualifications “cannot be invalid” because he may have paid $10,000 for one of them.

This is not the first time the degree-doubting duo are writing about the tempestuous issues of unaccredited universities churning out bogus degrees from degree mills to lazy people who do not have the intellectual energy to follow the laborious academic routine to earn a degree. The Valdosta scholars have written and published extensively on such matters, listing some 30 accomplished Ghanaians, including IGP John Kudalor, Hassan Ayarigah and Kofi Portuphy, as recipients of bogus doctorates.

Dodgy degrees and bogus universities

They identify some of the unaccredited and dodgy institutions as the Dayspring Christian University of Mississippi, Atlantic International University in Honolulu, Hawaii, the American Century University in Albuquerque, University of Dublin in California and the infamous SMC in Zurich, Switzerland. They have sent strong words to the National Accreditation Board (NAB), the Minister of Education and the President of the Republic, calling for an investigation into Prof Amartey’s appointment.

What are the logos and the locus of the Valdosta academics for arrogating onto themselves all the powers of sane academia, and proceeding to deliver a heavy-handed verdict on those who got their degrees in the shower and those who laboured for theirs? They have a few research papers to their credit, including “The accreditation challenges in transnational educational ecology: The Ghanaian experience.” It is a brutal treatise of the motives behind the degree mills and their greedy victims.

A PhD sets a person apart; it is not for everybody who goes to university and graduates with a second class degree. It is a distinguishing mark of intellectual aptitude and academic honour reserved for only a few people. Often, average minds who try it either fall by the way side or discontinue for sheer lack of capacity. It is difficult, especially if your supervisor is a crossdresser who doesn’t care how you pick yourself up when your entire theoretical framework is faulted. That is the intellectual foundation of the research. It also means you would have to go back to rework your literature review.

The drudgery of PhD

Typically, it should take a smart person some four years to complete a PhD. My former roommate in Canada did it in three years and won some awards for his good work. Sharing the same living room with the Cuban student, I saw how he labored through long nights, researching into weird concepts and constructs to set the foundations for his work. I remember him saying 24 hours in a day were not enough for him because he had too much to do. Two years would not be enough to complete the humongous task that stared at him daily. He spent a lot of time on the methodology.

Supervisors will tell you a lot of nonsense. When they cancel the whole of chapter three and order you to collapse chapters one and two into one, you feel like punching through their grey moustache or using a four letter word to demonstrate your disgust. Often, you may have to start all over again because the old professor may have tumbled the whole work on its head. Where do you start from? Maybe you should pull out and find some work to do. This is where the women leave the men behind.

I decided not to attend my roommate’s defence; I was so scared for him than he was for his grave. The external examiners come with an angry heart, demotivated by the fret and weariness of an unintelligible life, to dump it all on a young and restless black African. My roommate survived it, thanks to his supervisor who stood up for him. It was a good thing that he had to combine chapters one and two. The panel loved it.

Making our degrees count

Dr. Tsikata and his colleague Dr. Dotse must be familiar with this routine. At Ohio State University where Tsikata studied, it was impossible to do two PhDs concurrently, as he alleges Prof Amartey has done. Dr. Dotse obtained his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology, commonly called Georgia Tech, where former American President Jimmy Carter trained. They will not sprinkle Prof Dr. Dr. degrees on people for being pretty.

I can understand why the degree-doubting crusaders have upped their campaign against dodgy PhDs and unaccredited institutions. They have called for the dissolution of NAB, forcing the accreditation body to rethink its rules on registering foreign universities. With 61% of teachers in tertiary institutions being unqualified, according to Mawutor Avoke, VC of University College of Education Winneba, it matters who we appoint as Vice-Chancellor of any university in Ghana, particularly the UPSA.

Columnist: Kwesi Tawiah Benjamin