Here's why Parliament suspended passage of the Public Universities Bill

After years of debating the Public Universities Bill since it was introduced by the government, Parliament has suspended the consideration of the passage of the universities' bill.


This was after opposition to the passage of the controversial Public Universities Bill especially members of the university community.

The bill seeks to harmonise the governance, administration, and accountability structures of public universities.

Since the introduction of the bill which is still at the consultation stage, there have been oppositions from some professors at the universities and key stakeholders stating that the government seeks to control academic freedom.

Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences against the bill


The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences has kicked against the Public Universities Bill laid before Parliament seeking for it to be shelved because it's "likely to be retrogressive, rather than enhancing what Ghanaian universities have achieved over the years."

The Academy in a five-page document tabled before Parliament said they strongly believe this bill is dangerous and uncalled for insisting is a recipe for chaos in Ghana's tertiary education system.

In the view of the Academy, the Bill is also not in conformity with the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana and must be dropped.

It added: "rather, Ghana needs a differentiated and diversified, but not necessarily hierarchical, university system, to offer the flexibility needed to address the changing needs of students and nations in an increasingly competitive and uncertain world."

The purpose of the Public Universities Bill, the Education Ministry explained, "is to provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities, principles of management of public universities, the legal status of public universities, the procedure for financing Public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of Public universities and related matters."


Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang speaks against the bill

The running mate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang added her voice to the controversial bill and said the bill must be withdrawn.

"A bill that will give the President the power to appoint and fire a vice-chancellor; or allow the sector minister to give policy direction to universities which will have to be complied with; has no business being considered for passage into law.

"The governance or administration of a university is diametrically different and must be devoid of politics," Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said.

Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah speaks against


Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon has said the new Universities Bill drafted by the Ministry of Education pending the approval of Parliament is "dangerous and unnecessary".

He said the bill will allow the government through its councils to have power over who gets admission into public universities in the country.

"I think this bill is very dangerous and totally unnecessary. The constitution of Ghana seeks to protect tertiary institutions from government interference. If the bill says the President can appoint the Chancellor it means he can disappoint the Chancellor. In all, the President can appoint about 5 council members and that is dangerous.

"The bill has stated that if 5 council members out of the 9 meet to discuss some issues, the decision arrived at can take effect. This means that the 5 appointed by the president can sit and decide to overthrow the VC and that can happen. As a former VC and educationist, I just can’t understand what this whole bill is about. Universities should be allowed to have their own laws governing them. The State shouldn’t give any legal guidelines. This bill is going to bring about micro-management of the Universities and that may render VC redundant," Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah said on Accra-based Starr FM.

Parliament suspends


The MP for Akatsi North, Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, speaking on the bill in Parliament on October 22, 2020, said explained that after taking a look at the bill, the committee recommended that government suspend its passage.

He said: "We have recommended that in view of the criticism and the number of petitions that we have received, it will be better for the government to hold on with the passing of the bill because there’s the need, still, for greater consultation so it will not feature as part of the bills we’re doing for this meeting of Parliament."

He stressed that the bill was not necessary and would only end up stifling the freedom of the country's universities.

"Because it was going to stifle the freedom of the universities, so academic freedom will be stifled.

"I've been off that position long ago, so, if it does not go through, better for government," he added.


Govt reacts

The Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, speaking after the suspension of the bill said the government took the decision to allow for the inclusion of varying opinions and contributions from academia and relevant stakeholders.

According to him, considering the backlash and diverse inputs, it was only fair for the Bill to be suspended for further deliberations.

Speaking on Accra-based Citi FM, he said "It is quite clear that there has been a groundswell of variety of opinion expressed on the Bill and a number of memoranda that were submitted by various academic and non-academic interest groups would compel any government to want to pause and take a second look at the Bill before deciding whether it should be brought back.

"The government is the majority in Parliament, and they could have very easily decided to go ahead with the Bill because we have the numbers but for us, as a listening government, we also realized that those adverse comments that have been made by various interest groups within and outside academia ought to be considered and it is not simply a matter of majority, but ensuring that you have a fair idea of the direction in which the bill is going."


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