Sun, 20 Mar 2005 Feature Article

Funding Tertiary Education In Ghana

Funding Tertiary Education In Ghana

Education continues to be a major problem for this country, with experts wondering how to solve the hydra-headed problems confronting us in that sector. In the first part of this article, Appiah Kubi, looks at the issue of education and seeks way to examine it. “I am far from poverty not because I was born into a rich family but because Dr. Nkrumah gave me education” Dr. Edward Mahama PNC Over the last few years, the vexed issue of funding tertiary education in the country has become a contentious one. The government's funding of tertiary education started in 1948 when, the University College of Gold Coast, now University of Ghana was established to produce the manpower requirements of the country. During that era, university students were treated as first-born babies and were provided with almost everything, including pocket money by the government, just to ensure that the needed psychological and physiological comfort was obtained for smooth scholarly work.

However, the issue of government as the sole financier of tertiary education came under the microscope of Dr. Busia's government in 1970 when a committee was set up to advise the government on the future policy direction of the government's financial support to the universities.

Nevertheless, almost thirty years after the birth of Busia's committee on funding tertiary education in the country, the issue is still as controversial as before.

Although, the government has acknowledged the role of university education and the acquisition of critical skills such as teaching, engineering, medicine, and accounting among others needed for socio-economic development, it has clearly stated its inability to act as the sole financier of tertiary education due to economic constraints coupled with the fact that, there are equally important sectors of the economy that need to be catered for, hence it came out with a white paper on tertiary education in 1992 which stated that '… government alone cannot continue to bear the increasing cost of higher education and therefore, there was the need for cost sharing by all stakeholders'.

In spite of the fact that the past decades have seen a relative rise in government's recurrent expenditure on education from 17% in 1981 to 36% and 41% in 1992 and 1994 respectively (Report on National Forum on Funding Tertiary Education, Akosombo, January 27-28 1997), the trend did not continue as the government, bent on promoting cost sharing decreased its expenditure on tertiary education. Thus, in 1996 the government, leading to a short fall of 26.3% or 16 billion cedis, provided only 73.7 % of the total amount needed to fund tertiary education.

In 1997, the amount provided was 61.5% of the total amount required resulting in a deficit of 38.5%. The deficit however, rose to 40% in 1999. These figures amply testified to the government's commitment in reducing expenditure on tertiary education, perhaps in fulfilment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank's sponsored adjustment programme with its emphasis on drastic cuts on public expenditure including that on education.

In 1998, the government decided that it could no longer continue with periodical subventions and grants to cover the payment of students' residential and academic user fees because of budgetary constraints and therefore asked students to pay the fees in respect of the usage of residential and academic facilities. This prompted some serious reactions from university students not only through the exchange of broadsides and trading of accusations but also through street demonstrations and other forms of protestations.

Against the background of rising cost of tertiary education with its attendant problem of rising enrolment, the problem of funding tertiary education, reached its elastic limit during the beginning of 2000/2001 academic year when the Committee of Principals and Vice Chancellors (CVCPs) through an advertised statement in the daily newspapers (Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times) threatened to close down the universities or cut down their admission intake till a solution is found to the chronic under-funding of the universities and other tertiary institutions as a result of starvation of budgetary allocations to the tertiary sector.

Despite the fact that, the 1992 constitution makes it mandatory for the government to fund education from the basic level to the tertiary level, it has become clear that the government is not ready to fund it alone.

Frustrations Of Tertiary Authorities Authorities of tertiary education have also over the years bitterly complained about the dwindling budgetary allocation to the tertiary institutions, yet the government has indicated its inability to single-handedly bear the cost of tertiary education at the expense of equally important sectors of the economy.

Another area that has been of concern to tertiary education authorities has been the increase in demand for tertiary education over the last few years as against the limited entry opportunities at the tertiary level.

Although, the development budget of education increased about seven fold from ¢ 2.024 million in 1993 to ¢ 15,600 million in 1996, the rapid development and heavy expenditure are still not adequate to cater for the problem of funding tertiary education especially, higher education.

Methods of funding education have never been uniformed all over the world. Every country either developed or developing finances her educational system considering so many factors. Some of these factors that countries take into consideration before drawing up policies on funding education, are principally the nature of the economy, the ideological perception of the country, the philosophy behind the education system and the values that a particular society attaches to education vis-à-vis national development.

Despite these factors, funding of tertiary education has been a difficult issue in Ghana. Tertiary institutions in the country have over the years been starved of both adequate development and recurrent expenditure making it impossible for them to operate at full and efficient capacity.

Delivering a paper on “private participation in tertiary education at the Pearson, - Osea Appreciation Lecture at Accra in November 1998, Prof. S. K. Agyepong, then Vice Chancellor of University of Cape Coast cautioned, that if the problem of funding tertiary education is not addressed quickly, it would lead to the demise of certain academic departments in the existing public universities and other tertiary institutions.

Addressing the seventh matriculation ceremony of the Accra Polytechnic in January 2000, Dr. Baah Boakye, Principal of the Polytechnic also complained that inadequate government subvention, irregular disbursement of the subventions and the disproportionate contribution by direct beneficiaries as well as the industrial and private sector, have all contributed to make the sustained and viable funding of tertiary institutions very difficult and noted that funding remains one of the greatest obstacles and constraint to capacity building of the nation. This perhaps, sums up the frustration of chief executives of tertiary institutions in the country over the inadequate tertiary education funding.

Tertiary Education In Perspective As we have entered the 21st century, higher education worldwide finds itself in a paradoxical situation. On one hand, it is witnessing an unprecedented growth. Enrolments are on the increase and so are the expectations placed on it by society.

The correlation between investment in higher education and research and the level of social, economic and cultural development of nations, is well established and is gaining increasing grounds, at a time when all developments have become knowledge intensive. On the other hand, higher education is in a state of crisis in practically all countries of the world under the pressure of serious financial constraints. It has to compete for public fund with many other sectors and very often, it is among the first to undergo severe cuts. These cuts have reached a dramatic threshold in developing countries especially.

Even though it is accepted that education financing is a problem all over the world, particularly in the developing countries, Ghana seems to have a greater share of the problem with education, competing for the meagre national resources with equally important sectors.

Nonetheless, several other countries have also suffered in the tertiary education crisis that Ghana is grappling with. The World Bank (1989) stated that, the development challenge posed for tertiary education in Africa is in one important respect, more daunting than that posed for lower education and that rare growth for public resources for the educational sector as a whole in most developing countries, is unlikely to keep pace with the growth of the population.

The World Bank blamed the scarcity of funding tertiary education throughout the sub-region on the tragic consequences of economic downturn and the concomitant constriction in public budget that has seriously undermined the quality of education in Africa's universities.

To improve the share of stagnant rare public education expenditures devoted to tertiary education and in order to stem the deterioration that threatens the ability of most African institutions of higher learning to contribute to development, the World Bank chronicled recommendations such as fee-paying in universities, elimination of allowances, rationalization of programmes and faculties, assigning to non-public sources the full cost of housing and other welfare sources provided to students and staff, reduction of non teaching staff amongst others in order to save the universities from collapse.

In a similar World Bank report titled “Cost And finance of Higher Education In Pakistan” published in 1991, the report noted that, the heavy dependence on federal grants by universities in the country, has historically left many universities under-funded in higher education and as such they have continuously received 30% of their budgetary request, les than 70% of what they needed to help keep the universities on track.

This allocation to the universities, the report further noted, has made the universities to run at deficits affecting the quality of university education, consistent planning, standard of achievement and invariably affecting the expenditure per student.

With reference to higher education in the Republic of Yemen, 'The University of Sanaa', published by the World Bank in 1991, it pointed out that despite the deterioration of the country's macro financial position between 1987 and 1990, the University has continued to depend on the inability of the government to provide adequate resources through a standardized budgetary framework and consequently affecting planning, effective and efficient university delivery system. The report regretted the situation whereby the university's recurrent expenditure is negotiated on an adhoc basis and therefore, suggested the means for the creation of an effective diversification of sources of funding of the university in order to promote greater internal efficiency and optimal performance in the university's planning and programmes.

However, despite the fact that the government's expenditure on education increased from 11.2% in 1978 to 20.3% in 1989, the report was not happy of the growth at the expense of other social welfare programmes and economic imbalance in the country.

From the foregoing, it was clear that the World Bank, which is the largest source of external finance for education in developing countries, accounting for a quarter (1/4) of all external support since 1963 will cut it's support despite contributing $19.2 billion over the past thirty years in more than 100 countries. Today, the total volume of lending to support education in developing countries is about $2.0 million a year.

This is supported by the fact that the bank's lending for university and polytechnic education which peaked at 36% of the total lending in mid 1980's has fallen to 26%, an indication of the fact that it is reducing its support as the largest external donor in developing countries as a condition for social and economic aid and support. Accordingly, the World Bank in (1995) said increasing public spending on education is not necessary in many cases because of the enormous potential of efficiency gained at current levels in developing countries. Public education in Africa, which has the lowest enrolment ratio than any region in the world, yet represents a greater share of Gross National Product of 4.2% of the African economies.

The bank stressed that, the trend has frequently put increasing pressure on public funds and at the same time has resulted in general fiscal difficulties, macro economic imbalances in some developing