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Public Universities Bill can kill academic freedom — Prof. Oduro

BY: Shirley Asiedu-Addo
Prof. Oduro (left) delivering his address
Prof. Oduro (left) delivering his address

The former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Professor George Oduro, has stated that the Public Universities Bill has the tendency to kill academic freedom and autonomy, which are key ingredients in creating congenial teaching and learning atmosphere on university campuses.

He noted that contrary to the argument by proponents of the Bill that it would harmonise the management and operations of all public universities, the passage of the Bill would rather complicate the management of the universities.

Prof. Oduro, who is a professor of Educational Leadership and Administration in Higher Education, was speaking at the launch of the 56th Students Representative Council Week celebration last Wednesday.

It was on the theme ‘University Students as Pioneers of Sustainable National Peace and Stability’.

He said, in his opinion, the bill was “ridiculously complicated, contextually unworkable and operationally suppressive with the tendency of killing academic freedom and autonomy.”

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Students’ contribution

Prof. Oduro, therefore, called on students to study the bill and contribute to the discourse on it.

“I challenge students in the light of promoting peace for sustainable development and stability not to stay on the fence for the sake of political convenience in the current seeming tension brewing on our campuses as a result of the Public Universities Bill, 2019,” he added.

Prof. Oduro arguments corroborate the position of critics of the Bill that the move could suppress academic freedom as he warns that such interferences can undermine the value of Ghana's tertiary education.

Other critics of the bill have also maintained that the various public universities were established with different mandates and objectives and that the passage of the Public Universities Bill could stifle the growth of the universities because its content might not be successfully adopted.

The Ministry of Education has, however, explained that there is no intention whatsoever in the bill to curtail the academic freedom and autonomy of public universities.

Ministry’s explantation

Explaining the rationale behind the bill in an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra recently, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Prof. Kwesi Yankah said, for instance, while some of the public universities had 12-member governing councils, others had 15 or 21.

“It is some of such inconsistencies and lack of uniformity in the management of public universities that we seek to harmonise to ensure that when you talk about Ghana universities, we are singing the same tune,” he said.

Prof. Oduro said, “political pronouncements, agitations and manipulations characterised by tensions associated with the removal, appointment and restoration of vice chancellors in the cases of University of Education, Winneba and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology provide evidence of the extent of some levels of partisan interferences which is fast eroding the academic freedom and autonomy of the universities.”

Global picture

Prof. Oduro stated that globally, autonomy and academic freedom of universities were regarded as necessary ingredients for quality delivery of education.

He advised the students not to perpetuate the political enmity by political activists but to address institutional and national issues from the lens of students, stressing, “Students should uphold critical mindedness and objectivity in institutional and national discourses and praise where praise is due and condemn where condemnation is due.”