The outgoing Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Prof Stephen Adei, has said the state should desist from favouring students in public institutions in the award of scholarships.
He said Ghanaians should be able to compete for scholarships on the basis of need, programme and academic achievements and not the institution one attended.
"The state should immediately stop favouring those who are in public universities when it comes to scholarships," he said when he presented a paper on, "Funding Private Tertiary Educational Institutions: Lessons for the Future", at the launch of the 10th anniversary of the Central University College (CUC) in Accra on Monday.
He said higher education played a strategic role in national development by providing critical knowledge and skills to participate in the global economy, as well as enlarge choices and facilitate democratic governance.
The sector, he said, was responsible for training high-level personnel for technical, managerial and leadership positions, generating new knowledge which was key to technological advancement, among other things.
Prof Adei said there was no doubt that private universities were offering education at very low rates of between GH¢1,300 and $5,400 per annum, and that "only Ashesi University College's $5,400 per annum does not fit the pattern, but even that is much lower than the annual fees charged by the elite second-cycle schools in the city of Accra- Tema which range above $6,000".
He said the future landscape of financing private tertiary education must change drastically and that existing institutions had to expand critical mass of enrolment, generate research and enter into the sciences and other areas.
That, according to him, would require state encouragement, loanable funds and market-determined fees, adding that long-term funding of capital or the development of private tertiary educational institutions should come from financial institutions such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
Prof Adei indicated that the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) policy regarding private institutions must be made clear and not to be at the discretion and magnanimity of visits by dignitaries.
He said, for instance, that 10 per cent of the fund could be earmarked for private institutions, although "I believe that the bulk should go to support public universities".
Private universities, he said, were in the country to stay, as they would grow in number and size and share in the enrolment of students.
"Government policy should recognise that an enabling environment is needed to create expanded private tertiary institutions. That will require a paradigm shift in the attitude of the government and the bureaucracy of public institutions such as the National Council for Tertiary Education, the National Accreditation Board (NAB), the GETFund and the Scholarship Secretariat," he said.
Prof Adei said the funding of private higher educational institutions was clearly dominated by fees and church/owner support, saying there was the need for the institutions to look for government support, including concessional loans, research earnings, private sector and service charges.
He expressed the hope that private tertiary institutions such as the CUC, the Valley View University and the Regent University would, in the next 10 years, be the prized university of choice in the country and urged them to speed up with expansion and quality improvement.
To that end, he said the NAB should institute standard criteria in all areas of concern to measure all universities in the country.
Prof Adei said the immediate future did not look too bright for private universities, as an examination of the manifestos of the Convention People's Party (CPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC) showed.
"The CPP says nothing. The NDC 'only indicates that it will construct two new public universities. The NPP promises a public university in each region and making university education accessible, but says nothing on the private sector. The PNC will convert some high schools into universities; faculty to be provided by retired leaders abroad and it will set up a research and development fund, but all in the public domain," he said.
He said private tertiary educational institutions should, therefore, engage in lobbying, making noise and saying things that politicians would listen to because when the "government is awake, their funding options will expand".
The Chairperson of the Board of Regents of the CUC, Ms Joyce Aryee, who outlined a brief history of the college, said it was started by the International Central Gospel Church with 12 students and staff strength of five.
The President of the CUC, Prof V.P.Y. Gadzekpo, said, among other things, the university was to empower people to realize their dreams.