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Opinions Fri, 29 Jun 2012

Withdraw Accreditation of Substandard Ghanaian Universities

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

While the remarkable increase in the number of degree-awarding institutions in the country comes as encouraging news, nevertheless, widespread reports that some of these largely privately-owned and operated universities and colleges are indiscriminately admitting students without due regard to standard admission requirements, ought to give a national cause for concern (See “Methodist University to Withdraw Over 1,400 Students” Ghanaweb.com 6/27/12).

In the latest of such administrative malpractice, we are told that one-and-half thousand students admitted by the operators of the Methodist University College of Ghana did not meet the basic university entry requirements and, therefore, have been asked to be immediately withdrawn by the National Accreditation Board (NAB). The problem with the NAB order inheres in the fact that it appears to presume the innocence of the key administrators of the Methodist University College, whose primary responsibility it is to thoroughly scrutinize the documents by which the presently disqualified entrants gained admission into the institution.

In other words, my contention here is that summarily punishing the students for wrongfully gaining admission into the Methodist University College of Ghana does not meet the standard and/or evenhanded kind of justice which is needed to ensure that salaried college administrators diligently perform the services for which they were hired. For instance, an evenhanded application of justice would necessitate the National Accreditation Board requesting that not only should wrongfully admitted students be immediately withdrawn, but also require the NAB to impose heavy monetary fines on the administrators directly involved in such fraudulent practices, as well as the institution itself, including ordering non-compliant institutions to promptly shut down their operations altogether.

Furthermore, punishment could come in the form of charging offending college administrators with the criminal offence of fraud – for this is exactly what such a corrupt practice entails – and making sure that at least some senior college administrators spend a reasonable span of time behind bars.

We also learn that only a couple of months ago, Rev. Mensah-Otabil’s renowned and much-touted Central University College was also ordered to promptly effect the withdrawal of at least 1,000 students. In either of these most recent cases, readers are not given either the numbers and/or percentages of students admitted by these two religious institutions who possessed the requisite admission qualifications/credentials. The foregoing notwithstanding, what is clear is the fact that this massive and flagrant incidence of fraud may well be more of a standard fare than an aberration. If this observation has validity, then the future of our nation’s higher educational institutions is being gravely endangered by some of these proprietors and entrepreneurs who seem to be far more interested in short-term profiteering than the long-term development of the nation as a whole. For, it goes without saying that the quality of life of any society and/or polity significantly depends on the caliber of graduates produced by its higher educational institutions.

According to the Executive Secretary of the National Accreditation Board, Mr. Kwame Dattey, “the primary responsibility rests on the mentor universities to ensure that their affiliates comply with the admission requirements.” Needless to say, such responsibility would only be taken seriously if the reputation of the affected protégé or mentee institutions becomes directly and inextricably linked with the hard-earned reputation of the benchmark or so-called mentor institutions. And for this to happen, the National Accreditation Board may have to institute clearly defined rules by which both a mentor institution and its affiliate ought to effectively function in such relationship.

In this particular instance, there does not appear to be any punitive measures governing the relationship between a mentor institution or university and its fledgling affiliate; and this sorry state of affairs ought to immediately change. Even more significant ought to be reckoned the image and reputation of Ghana’s higher educational system abroad. In other words, we do not want to be graduating students whose academic and professional credentials may not be readily acceptable on the highly competitive global market.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Sounds of Sirens: Essays in African Politics and Culture” (iUniverse.com, 2004). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.

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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame