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29.08.2005 Education

Increase access to university education - Ohene

GNA

Accra, Aug. 29, GNA - Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, on Monday said the nation needed to increase access to university education to have enough trained manpower that would transform the economy and create wealth.

Ghana cannot afford to restrict university education to a small elite group, Ms Ohene said when she opened a training of trainers workshop on quality assurance for university managers in Ghana. The two-day workshop is aimed at exposing participants to emerging trends in quality assurance and accreditation to enable them to identify quality monitoring and assurance process in Ghanaian tertiary institutions.

The Minister, however, urged universities not to increase the level of students to the extent that they would be unmanageable and end up destroying their reputation and credibility.

She said judging from the rush to gain admission it was tempting to conclude that there was as yet no crisis of confidence in the quality of the universities.

"But I wonder how much of this perception is a case of the institutions riding on their past reputations. Obviously it is so much easier to maintain quality when numbers in the universities are small. Doubtless when some people complain about falling standards, it is the sheer explosion in numbers that worries them."

She said the country would be looking for graduates of tertiary institutions, who could demonstrate knowledge of current trends in industry and commerce and understood the concepts that underpinned the dynamics of both the business world as well as the public service. Ms Ohene stressed the need for graduates to demonstrate problem solving skills and ability to work with little supervision.

She noted that at the time that universities were offering admissions, the population was not overly concerned with classroom space or the number of teachers or equipment in laboratories or the state of libraries, office or residential accommodation for staff or students. Ms Ohene stressed that internal quality assurance measures were crucial adding that government was doing its part to support the institutions to ensure quality and engender public confidence.

Ms Ohene said apart from support from government budget and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), government had allocated about one-half of its funding from education sector project with support from World Bank, to assist tertiary education institutions to initiate innovations to support improvements in quality, relevance and the efficiency of the teaching and learning process.

She said a staff development and research fund had been established at the National Council for Tertiary Education funded through the GETFUND to facilitate the development of faculty and foster research. She said the Ministry was concerned that all programmes mounted by the universities would have been budgeted for and received accreditation.

"This is an essential part of the quality assurance process and universities should not to be carried away by mounting programmes without accreditation."

Dr Kobina Quansah, Chairman of National Council Tertiary Education, said the exigencies of the 21st Century demanded an educational system that responded rapidly to a clientele seeking greater variety in the teaching and learning experience. He said Ghanaian tertiary education system had responded with the establishment and development of universities by the private sector, adding their growth was associated with challenges to maintain quality in the sector.

He urged university leaders and managers to demonstrate strong commitment to the advancement of quality.

He said in a developing nation like Ghana quality assurance mechanism must suit the prevailing conditions. They must be simple in design, modest in expectation, and realistic in requirements and should meet international educational standards. Some of the pre-conditions are an atmosphere of academic freedom and international excitement, he said.

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