Who is conferring degrees, diplomas awarded by Technical Universities?
The Technical Universities Act, 2016 (Act 922) as amended established Technical Universities (TUs) in 2016 and 2018. It created principal officers and gave them specific responsibilities and duties. And these duties are expected to be performed in full. For that matter, provisions of Act 922 as amended cannot be cherry-picked.
This piece attempts to show that the part of the law that addresses the issue of the appointment of the Chancellors of the Technical Universities is very important and it must be complied with without going contrary to the Act.
The problem on the ground is that there are no Chancellors but the Technical Universities graduate students and confer on them degrees, diplomas and certificates.
To this end, the main issue to be addressed is whether or not the Technical Universities can confer degrees, diplomas, or certificates on deserving persons when they have not appointed Chancellors?
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The Position of the law
The Technical Universities Act, 2016 (Act 922) provides as follows:
Section 14 (1) A Technical University shall have a Chancellor who is appointed by the Council and takes precedence over the other officers of the Technical University.
Subsection (2) as amended by the Technical Universities (Amendment) Act, 2018 (Act 974) provides that the criteria and modalities for the nomination and election of the Chancellor shall be prescribed by the statutes of the Technical University.
(6) The Chancellor shall confer on qualified persons degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded by the Technical University in accordance with this Act and procedures prescribed by the Statutes of Technical University.
(7) The Chancellor may delegate functions under subsection (6) by directions in writing to the Council.
Additionally, Section 13 (1) of Act 922 provides that the principal officers of a Technical University are (a) the Chancellor (b) the Chairperson of the Council of the Technical University; and (c) the Vice-Chancellor of that Technical University.
And under functions of a Council, Section 6 of Act 922 does not mention that it can confer degrees, diplomas or certificates but only provides at subsection (o) perform any other functions that are ancillary to the aims of that Technical University.
The law quoted above can be summarised as follows: the first principal officer of a Technical University is the Chancellor who takes precedence over the other officers.
Among other things, the Chancellor confers degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded by the Technical University. And most importantly, the Chancellor may delegate this role to the Council through writing but not by any other means.
It is trite that six Technical Universities were established in 2016 (and two in 2018) and they had interim Councils until somewhere in August 2017 that substantive Councils were formed. Among others, the Council is responsible for the enactment of Statutes to operationalize Act 922. The Statutes should contain the criteria and procedure to appoint a Chancellor.
It is also a fact that these TUs have over the last two years organised graduation ceremonies and awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates to deserving persons. It is known that these Technical Universities run the Higher National Diploma (HND) in various disciplines. The HND is awarded by the National Board for Professional and Technical Education (NABPTEX). However, the Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degrees are either awarded by the TUs themselves or in collaboration with one another or with other universities home or abroad. And the TUs award certain certificates which are neither HND nor BTech.
Pursuant to Section 14 (6), it is the statutory duty of the Chancellor of a Technical University to confer these BTech and certificates awarded by the Technical University.
If a TU awards its own degree, diploma or certificate, it is the duty of the Chancellor of that TU to confer them.
In the absence of the Chancellor, that is, when no Chancellor has ever been appointed, the Council of the TU will act ultra vires if it attempts to confer these degrees, diplomas or certificates awarded by the TU. It shall be illegal or unlawful or contrary to Act 922 as amended for a Council or any other officer of a TU to confer degrees, diplomas or certificates awarded by the TU.
The only moment where a Council of a TU can confer these is when a Chancellor takes his pen and paper and writes to the Council and delegates this role to the Council.
And if no Chancellor has ever been appointed, who will be there to write to the Council? Persons that are not in existence cannot write to delegate.
For the HNDs run by the NABPTEX, because they are not awarded by the Technical Universities themselves, they do not need a Chancellor to confer them. But for BTech and other certificates awarded by the TUs, the Chancellor is the only person mandated by the law to confer same on deserving persons.
From the checks, none of the eight Technical Universities has appointed a Chancellor. But they have gone ahead to confer BTech and other certificates in 2018, with some going to do so early 2019. It can be said without fear and without any equivocation that the Councils or the Principal Officers, as the case may be, which conferred these degrees and certificates in 2018 or before acted outside the bounds of their jurisdiction when it is a naked fact that no Chancellor has ever been appointed.
How to Appoint a Chancellor
Section 14 (2) of Act 922 as amended dictates that the criteria and modalities for the election of the Chancellor shall be prescribed by the Statute of the Technical University. It is the Statute only that can contain the procedure and qualifications of the Chancellor. It shall be offensive to the law and decided cases such as the Dual Citizen Case procured by Professor Asare if the Statutes delegate that function to the Council or any other person. The Statutes of the TUs must contain every modality leading to the election of the Chancellor.
Who can Appoint a Chancellor?
Section 14 (1) provides that it is the duty of the Council of a Technical University to appoint the Chancellor. It is not the duty of the Government through the Ministry of Education or through the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) to make this appointment.
And before any blunder is made, the understanding of Act 922 as amended is that the Chancellor may attend Council meetings but the Chancellor does not and cannot chair any Council meeting. The chairing of Council meetings is the statutory duty of the Chairperson of the Council. And in his absence, the members of Council present shall nominate an external member to chair the meeting.
The Way forward
Article 23 of Constitution, 1992 provides that Administrative bodies and administrative officials shall act fairly and reasonably and comply with the requirements imposed on them by law and persons aggrieved by the exercise of such acts and decisions shall have the right to seek redress before a court or other tribunal.
The duties imposed by Act 922 as amended must be complied with without any further breaches. The various Chancellors must be appointed by the Councils before any Technical University can confer degrees, diplomas, or certificates on deserving persons in the coming months. This means that work on the Statutes must be expedited to ensure the appointment of the Chancellors.
Consequently, failure on the part of the Council of the Technical Universities to appoint the Chancellors will arm any citizen with the right to seek redress before a court.
This may result in injunctions on graduation ceremonies in the coming months.
For the foregoing, the teaching body, administrators and student representative councils in the Technical Universities must ensure that this requirement of Act 922 as amended is fully complied with by the Councils.
Citizens who will go to court for redress must not be seen as spectators but as country-loving citizens. The rule of law should be preferred by all well-meaning Ghanaians.
The author is Senior Lecturer at Koforidua Technical University