Conversion of polytechnics to universities serious error. Was Akilagpa Sawyerr right?
Many will not agree with those who attribute the conversion of polytechnics to technical universities to a serious error by the Mahama-led government. Per the comments of one of those who attribute it to a serious error (Prof. Akilagpa Sawyerr), which appeared on ghanaweb on Thursday, June 2, 2016, one of the arguments is that over the years, Ghana has failed to put the polytechnics to enough use. While it is fair comment, it is also obvious that not getting enough from the polytechnics cannot be attributed only to government, since many educationists have failed to contribute to the growth and development of polytechnics especially when it comes to the enforcement of the Polytechnics Act which gives the polytechnics autonomy to run their own programmes accredited by the National Accreditation Board and offer certificates.
Again, the idea that several educationists had kicked against the conversion based on the premise that the polytechnics have not yet developed the necessary curriculum needed to run degree courses will also receive diverse views from people. Both executive and legislative approval was given to the establishment of the University of Health and Allied Sciences before the university was tasked to gradually develop programmes that it could run. It is therefore right, based on the same assumption that when polytechnics are converted into technical universities, gradually, four-year B.Tech programmes will be developed by these newly converted universities.
The little survey by the writer reveals that some polytechnics, especially Kumasi Polytechnic, have started developing four-year B.Tech programmes with professional and industry inputs and would have sought for accreditation by the time the conversion starts.
One of the comments against the conversion also has to do with the polytechnics not conducting enough research. Many again will also have diverse views against this comment. One of the important criteria for ranking universities and polytechnics is their contribution to knowledge in the area of research.
According to the Web ranking 2016, many of the polytechnics such as Cape Coast, Kumasi, Accra, Takoradi and Koforidua were ranked higher than the fully fledged universities such as University of Professional Studies, University of Health and Allied Sciences and University of Energy and Natural Resources. Therefore, the argument that polytechnics are not conducting enough research to warrant their conversion would be difficult to be accepted by many.
Another comment against the conversion of these polytechnics has to do with: ‘what changes if these polytechnics are converted to technical universities’? In my view, there are a lot. One of them has its rebranding that will remove the negative perception about polytechnic education.
Second, it will remove any ambiguity about job placement and career progression which is currently killing polytechnic education. At the moment there is limited collaboration between the polytechnics and industry in Ghana. The conversion will enhance this collaboration, since it will continue to be part of what is expected from all technical universities.
From the arguments advanced so far, criticisms against the conversion of polytechnics to technical universities should receive less attention as compared to what can be done to make this conversion more effective. The following areas should be given considerable attention as to what needs to be done to make this conversion more effective rather than kicking against it, since the benefits far outweigh the shortfalls.
• The government should improve on its budgetary allocation to these polytechnics when converted to technical universities so that they can effectively deliver on their mandate looking at the cost of training technical university graduates.
• The government should bridge the gap between human resource in these technical universities and traditional universities in relation to compensation issues so as to attract and retain qualified and skilled manpower for these technical universities.
• It must invest in the concept of competency-based training (CBT) so that it will be embraced by all those who are required to apply them.
• It should offer policies that will create a win–win situation for both industries and these technical universities to enhance linkages.
The writer is Director, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, Kumasi Polytechnic.Tel: 0200991023