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Change and transformation in Ghana's publicly funded univerisites: a study of experiences, lessons and opportunities

Manuh, Takyiwaa; Gariba, Sulley; Budu, Joseph


In Ghana, the promise of accelerated economic growth and social transformation at independence led to the establishment of varied yet specialized human resources and institutions with science and technology as a central feature, and the teaching and learning of varied expertise in an environment of liberal studies and critical thinking as key priorities. Universities were established in part to promote this vision, both at the level of functional professionals and in the teaching of science and technology. After a decade or so of independence, this optimism was curtailed by political and economic crises characterized by sporadic changes of governments and inconsistent policies, including those of higher education. The result of all this were two decades of crisis management in Ghana's economy, institutions and universities.

Nearly 20 years of structural adjustment programming at the macro-level (1982 to 2001) have resulted in a mixed menu of reforms in the system and processes of university education. While some of these may have been triggered and sustained by internal pressures within the universities themselves, others have been catalysed by the realities of an external political economy dominated by adjustment, fiscal restraint and Ghana's recent status as a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). It is in this context of an overarching system of national reforms that a focus on coping strategies, change and transformation of Ghana's publicly funded universities has been adopted.

Universities in Ghana have been challenged both internally by their own publics and externally by governments and communities to address these critical issues: expanding access with equity; quality and relevance; knowledge production and its application to the problems facing society; sustainable funding and resource management, all of which have called into question the roles and mission of universities in Africa. The public universities have faced competition from offshore universities (mainly religious-based and a few secular private universities) as well as from other non-university centres of knowledge production and research. This new competition is taking place within the context of neo-liberal economic policies characterized by market-led reforms and private sector initiatives. The universities have singularly, or in concert, adopted different strategies and measures to expand enrolment, generate additional funding and review curricula and modes of operation in an attempt to respond to these challenges.

The study takes as its point of departure the circumstances under which the universities' activities interface with the wider society and institutions, and the concomitant effect of that engagement in the establishment of new paradigms for teaching, research and learning. Transformation is thus seen as a dynamic and cyclical process, giving meaning and relevance to both the protagonists of the actions (the universities) and those who demand, benefit from and are affected by them (the society and economy).

Seen in this context, transformation and change in Ghana's public universities have not been altogether deliberate. Their origins, motivation and purposes have been diverse, and their feedback into the system of university education and the attendant changes fostered by these nascent transformations are still unfolding. The beginnings of these can then be characterized as innovations— new ways of doing things under extremely difficult circumstances—in the system of tertiary education and in the socio-economic development processes of Ghana, with the potential for scaling up and expansion.

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Title of Paper: Change and transformation in Ghana's publicly funded univerisites: a study of experiences, lessons and opportunities
Publisher: Woeli Publishing Services
City: Accra, Ghana

Document Type:Booklet (Peer Reviewed)
Subject Area:National Systems and Comparative Studies
Keywords:Universities, Transformation, Ghana, Public Sector, Access to Higher Education, Equity, Knowledge Production, Governance, Gender Distribution

File Size:1.08 MB
Date Added:20 August 2007

Manuh, Takyiwaa; Gariba, Sulley; Budu, Joseph (2007). Change and transformation in Ghana's publicly funded univerisites: a study of experiences, lessons and opportunities, Accra, Ghana: Woeli Publishing Services, 1-75