Open university set to meet growing demand for HE

Open universities are helping to increase access to higher education across Africa as it becomes more apparent that the demand for brick-and-mortar facilities cannot be met by resource-constrained governments, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Laweh Open University College, Josiah Cobbah, told University World News.

Laweh, based at Teshie-Nungua in Accra, Ghana, is the brainchild of the former vice-chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), Joshua Alabi, together with his wife Goski, who is dean of the Centre for International Education and Collaboration at UPSA. Laweh is the first private open university in the West African region and is affiliated to the Open University of Tanzania. It opened its doors to students in 2015 after it was incorporated a year earlier.

Cobbah said Ghana is likely to struggle in the face of a projected increase in the number of students into universities following the introduction of the free senior high school programme. Open universities will be needed to fill the gap, he said.

“The government does not have enough resources to support the provision of brick and mortar facilities at one place to support admissions of the growing numbers,” he said. Therefore, open universities like Laweh will be needed to support the massification of higher education.

“Times have changed and perceptions have changed and so we have no choice but to accept open universities as the future,” Cobbah said. “Society has an obligation to provide education to the teeming masses and there is no other way to go in view of the dwindling resources available.”

The Laweh Open University, named after the founder of Nungua, part of the Ga State of the people of the greater Accra region, opened with nine programmes: five graduate and four undergraduate, all under the colleges of business, arts, science and technology as well as health and public administration.

Cobbah said Laweh is different from other higher institutions, in that “once a student is admitted, they will not be allowed to sink.” The university provides blended learning based on the leadership, innovation, flexibility and entrepreneurship (LIFE) philosophy.

The university now has 150 students and it is preparing to graduate its first batch by the end of this year.

Cobbah said the university’s aim is to provide education without barriers where international faculty and student talents are nurtured and turned into abilities for global impact. “We guide you and also do not focus only on the subjects. You come out with something more than a degree.”

“We are very conscious of quality and would therefore not cut corners,” he said. “We have brought together people with practice in education and have tapped talent from African and international institutions.”

He said Laweh is ready to play a role in Ghana by providing high quality open supported learning programmes that are geared towards meeting the needs of industrial employers. In addition to comprehensive academic programmes which follow best global practice, the institution uses flexible approaches to offer personal development opportunities for students.

He said there is a growing recognition around the world of the value of open universities. Laweh is part of an international case study on their contribution.