High cost of upgrading polytechnics into universities

It will cost Ghana’s government US$180 million per annum for the next three years to fully turn the country’s 10 polytechnics into technical universities, a report by a committee set up to work on the institutional conversion programme has said. Meanwhile, a working group has developed a national quality assurance framework for higher education.

The polytechnic conversions will take effect in September 2016, as part of a national effort to strengthen technical education and produce a more technically skilled labour force, the committee set up by the government said in its report.

But executives at the University Teachers Association of Ghana have cautioned the government against a rush to turn polytechnics into universities, and asked that the plan be implemented gradually.

Last month Deputy Minister of Education Sam Okudzeto-Ablakwa said the government had presented a draft bill on the conversion of the 10 polytechnics to parliament for consideration and subsequent approval.

The committee said the conversion should be based on concrete evidence and verifiable information that a polytechnic met eligibility criteria and modalities as endorsed by the government.

Accordingly, it suggested the creation of a panel of experts to advise on the eligibility and state of readiness for conversion of each polytechnic.

It recommended that technical universities should be mainly technological institutions that will impart entrepreneurial and employable skills to students, to enable graduates to apply their skills in research and technology to solve problems in business and industry.

Progress on quality assurance

Meanwhile the National Quality Working Group has developed a National Quality Assurance Framework for Higher Education Institutions, aimed at reducing ambiguity, boosting stakeholder confidence, improving efficiency and supporting institutions to deliver quality education.

This outcome is part of a study by the group into factors that promote and constrain quality assurance practices in Ghana, undertaken under the Higher Education Leadership Programme of the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa, CODESRIA.

The project, which was started in November 2012, is a joint initiative of the University of Professional Studies in Accra, the National Accreditation Board or NAB, the National Council for Tertiary Education and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

The project’s technical team leader, Professor Goski Alabi, said it sought to document the evolution of quality assurance practices in institutions in Ghana.

In addition, it was analysing how current national accreditation structures impacted on higher education, identifying factors that promoted or constrained quality assurance and developing a framework for enhancing quality assurance in institutions.

Quality, she said, had two parts – external quality assurance, which comprises accreditation, affiliation and academic audits; and internal quality assurance comprising institutional quality processes and cultural aspects.

Alabi said factors that promoted a quality culture included strong leadership commitment and vision, communication of the need for quality, training, affiliation, professional bodies’ standards and evaluation.

Among factors that constrained a quality culture were low capacity for quality management, centralisation of NAB, lack of information management, the quality of academic staff, the absence of a quality assurance framework or guidelines, lack of funding and staff workloads.

Kwame Darteh, executive secretary of NAB, said quality assurance – and especially external quality assurance – was important for higher education institutions because it helped them to go beyond minimum requirements. The strength of academic staff and the governance structures of institutions were key indicators of the level of their quality assurance.