The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Kwadwo Affram Asiedu, has advised private universities in the country to skew their curricula programmes towards the practical training of their students.
This way, he said, they would be producing graduates who would be equipped with the relevant practical entrepreneurial skills to create jobs for themselves and others.
Private universities must deviate from the traditional university concept of being theoretical and rather structure the content of their courses to meet the country's development needs, he stated, adding that, “The ability of private universities to emphasise more on practical training instead of theoretical courses will enable graduates to become self-employed when ever they failed to secure positions in the public sector”.
Mr Affram Asiedu made the call when he addressed the 6th matriculation of the Presbyterian University College at Abetifi, and urged private universities to be innovative in their programmes to be able to contribute meaningfully towards the country's development.
In all, 320 students, comprising 134 females and 186 males, from the three campuses of the university at Akuapem, Asante-Akyem and Abetifi, were matriculated.
“In the wake of the oil find in the country and emergence of a strong industrialised economy with the financial services sector taking centre stage, it is strongly advised that new universities should do well to turn their aspirations towards these new frontiers”, Mr Affram Asiedu stated.
He said, higher institutions in the country should direct their training towards addressing issues such as ignorance, poverty, chronic diseases, high rate of malaria, HIV/AIDS, lack of potable water, as well as such environmental issues as climate change and insanitary conditions.
According to him, the establishment of private universities had come as a relief, as many teeming qualified applicants, who could not get admission to public universities were being absorbed by the private ones.
Mr Affram Asiedu, however, expressed worry about the rate at which many private universities were springing up in the country and therefore urged the National Accreditation Board to endeavour to use the appropriate criteria for the approval or otherwise of such universities.
“Sometimes, it becomes so difficult for some to get affiliated to other universities, thereby jeopardising the future of the students”, he added.
He highlighted the support tertiary institutions had received since the assumption of office of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, to include the conversion of the Tarkwa School of Mines into a fully-fledged university and the establishment of two polytechnics in Wa and Bolgatanga.
According to him, due to the support given to most tertiary institutions, enrolment in public universities had doubled from 40,670 in 2000/2001 to 88,445 in 2006/2007, while that of polytechnics had also risen by more than 50 per cent from 18,470 in 2000/2001 to 28,695 in 2006/2007 academic year.
For his part, the Principal of the University, Professor K. Sraku-Lartey, said the university, which started in 2003 with 55 students, currently had a total student population of 900, comprising 360 females and 531 males.
He pointed out that his outfit aimed at introducing more innovative and demand-driven programmes such as a Faculty of Science and Technology at its Kwahu campus to take care of Information, Communication and Technology, Computer Science and Computer Engineering and expand the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the Asante-Akyem Campus to start a Medical School.
The Principal said very soon a campus would be opened in Tema to cater for workers, who for lack of time could not patronise regular university education.
He said with support of stakeholders, the PUC had embarked on small scale agricultural activity in crops and animal husbandry at its agricultural station in the Afram Plains.
The objective of the project, he noted, was to increase the institution's capacity to engage in large scale commercial agriculture and also train members of the community to improve their livelihood.
The Kwahumanhene, Daasebre Akuamoah Boateng, appealed to the government, corporate bodies and individuals to help the university to expand its faculties to enable it to admit more students.
Story by Nana Konadu Agyeman.