University facilities insufficient to meet high demand

Ghana’s public universities are facing a boom in applications, but do not have sufficient facilities to meet growing demand that has been exacerbated by an influx of students from neighbouring countries and a double cohort leaving school this year.

As a result, admission to universities is no longer based on obtaining the required grades – some qualified candidates have been turned down or made to sit additional selection tests.

The situation has been compounded by students from neighbouring countries – especially Nigeria – competing with Ghanaians for admission. Nigerians have been seeking out Ghanaian institutions because of the frequent strikes that have bedevilled their public university campuses.

“Over the past four months, Nigerian universities have been on strike and students have been forced to stay at home so it is better for some of us to look elsewhere to educate our children,” a Nigerian parent, Folu Agbeniran, told University World News in Accra.

Agbeniran said he had spent a month in Ghana looking at institutions that could admit his child as a first-year political science student.

“It is expensive to send your child to universities in Europe because even if you have the money, the visa regime has become very complicated so it is only logical to turn to a neighbouring country where everything is working,” he said.

Admission denied to many

Local students have become frustrated as institutions put in place competitive procedures to select qualified applicants. This year the University of Ghana rejected 39,645 qualified applicants who wanted to pursue undergraduate or graduate programmes in the 2013-14 academic year.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, said the situation was worse this year because there were two groups of students that sat the West African Senior School Certificate Examination in May-June 2013. This was due to the shortening of the four-year senior high school course to three years.

Aryeetey said about 37,507 undergraduates and 2,138 graduates were denied admission. He described as “painful” the decision to reject 881 applicants who obtained good aggregates.

“We are faced with the painful decision of having to turn down the applications of many otherwise well qualified applicants due to limitations of staff and facilities,” he said.

As a result of these limitations some science students said they had to sit selection tests to gain admission.

“I made the grades and was expecting to be admitted but the university authorities used a test that they conducted to deny my admission,” said Joseph Addo.

“My dream of gaining admission to study medicine has been dashed and I am not sure of what I can do because private universities are very expensive and my parents cannot afford to pay those fees,” Addo added.

Universities unable to meet demand

The University of Cape Coast and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have also rejected large numbers of prospective students because they cannot meet demand.

Another public university, the University of Education, Winneba, rejected 7,873 prospective students for the academic year.

Vice-chancellor Professor Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw said that out of 13,173 applications received for undergraduate programmes, the university was able to offer admission to only 5,690. Of 663 applications received for postgraduate programmes 273 were offered admission.

The picture was no different for the University of Energy and Natural Resources at Sunyani, where officials said they had to reject 349 prospective students out of 909 applicants. The vice-chancellor, Professor Esi Awuah, said the decision to reject students was due to insufficient space and inadequate lecture theatres and laboratories.

Growing interest from Nigerians

Nigerian parent Folu Agbeniran said Ghanaian universities should take advantage of the growing interest among foreigners and increase their facilities to admit more students.

“They must find a way of expanding their facilities because from next year, more and more Nigerians would come to seek admission because of the situation in Nigeria,” he said.

This could mean that unfortunate students like Addo, who missed out this year, might stand little chance of acceptance next year because he would have to compete with large numbers of local applicants as well as with even more Nigerians eager to enter Ghanaian universities.