After years of strategic investment, KNUST leads in SDG4

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Kumasi, Ghana, has been named as the institution that makes the greatest contribution in the world towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which focuses on quality education.

This is in terms of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2023. The rankings were released at the beginning of June.

University World News spoke to KNUST spokesperson Daniel Norris Bekoe about the achievement.

UWN: To be globally recognised for contributing to quality education must mean a lot to the management and staff of KNUST. How did the university achieve this?

DNB: This was due to the combined efforts of the university’s management and dedicated staff and students, invaluable partners, and esteemed stakeholders – everyone contributed, which has led to this outstanding milestone.

This achievement reflects the substantial and strategic investments made by the university’s management over the years. For this, I must specifically praise past and current administrations for the investments in infrastructure, ICT and e-learning resources, which have significantly enhanced the educational experience at KNUST.

UWN: How is the management, together with faculty and students, reacting to this?

DNB: That KNUST secured the top position globally, surpassing all other universities worldwide in terms of providing quality education, is something that will take a while to properly get to terms with.

We are also feeling light-headed that KNUST outperformed 1,303 of the 1,304 universities within this category across the globe, cementing its status as the premier destination for quality education globally. That is really something. Don’t you think so, especially for an African university?

UWN: Is this something that can be sustained?

DNB: Sure, and I can assure you that we will continue with the noteworthy endeavours that have been undertaken by the university’s management in assisting emerging researchers through financial support and facilitating the pursuit of impactful research initiatives and subsequently publishing their findings in high-impact journals. These steps were recognised as a pivotal factor with transformative implications for the institution.

This will all be sustained because we have seen that our efforts pay off. There is also the need for all staff and students to sustain this diligent and persevering spirit.

We also understand that we need to underscore the resplendent banner of the KNUST to continue to wave high, symbolising the institution’s relentless pursuit of excellence. For this reason, staff and students will do everything possible to sustain the conditions that contributed to the achievement.

UWN: Is the university working on other areas for future recognition?

DNB: We hope to win other laurels and, for that matter, initiatives such as scholarships for academically gifted but financially disadvantaged students will continue.

The Support One Needy Student with One Laptop (SONSOL) programme, initiated by the Vice-chancellor, Professor Rita Akosua Dickson, to bridge the digital divide, and the provision of full scholarships covering accommodation, food, clothing and special vehicles to enhance the mobility of persons with disabilities will add to motivate students and faculty.

These accomplishments reflect KNUST’s commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that no student is left behind. For this reason, we believe students and staff are prepared to do all they can so that we meet other requirements in the rankings for next year.

UWN: What exactly does it mean to be ranked for contributing to SDG 4?

DNB: The THE Impact Rankings are the sole global performance table that evaluate universities based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. KNUST has put in place policies that have created a safe academic environment that fosters improved teaching and learning for all students and staff.

The KNUST was commended for enacting policies such as gender, anti-sexual harassment, and disability policies to safeguard the vulnerable members of the university community.

UWN: What does “early years and lifelong learning” mean, which was one of the areas KNUST was recognised for in the rankings?

DNB: The quality education category evaluates universities’ contributions to early years and lifelong learning, research, and their dedication to inclusive education.

It has always been the firm commitment of the management to consistently make strategic decisions and investments aimed at enhancing the quality of education.

This steadfast dedication is driven by the overarching goal of nurturing students who possess not only a profound understanding of their subjects but also exemplary character traits.

By steadfastly adhering to this principle, KNUST aspires to equip its students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel not only within Ghana but also on a global scale. This significant achievement stands as a testament to the collective efforts and unwavering commitment exhibited by the entire KNUST community.

UWN: KNUST has been a trailblazer in Ghana’s tertiary education sector. How has it contributed to the development of the country?

DNB: Our commitment to quality education, research, innovation, technological advancement, infrastructure development, community engagement and collaboration are what has made KNUST a trailblazer in Ghana’s tertiary education sector.

In the area of quality education, KNUST has consistently produced highly skilled graduates. In addition, the university has contributed to the human resource development of the country.

These graduates have played pivotal roles in various sectors, such as engineering, medicine, agriculture, architecture and business, driving innovation, research and development.

When it comes to research and innovation, KNUST has been at the forefront, with our faculty and students engaging in cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines.

Their research findings and innovations have contributed to solving critical national and societal problems, fostering economic growth and improving the quality of life for Ghanaians. The university has played a vital role in infrastructure development in the country.

KNUST’s campus serves as a hub for academic and research activities, attracting students, faculty and researchers from across Ghana and beyond. We have also actively engaged with our local communities, addressing their challenges and contributing to their development.

The university’s outreach programmes, extension services, and community projects aim to improve the lives of Ghanaians by offering solutions to societal problems, promoting sustainable development and fostering social responsibility among students and staff.

In our resolve to be a place of excellence, we have collaborated and partnered with local and international institutions, government agencies, industries and organisations.

These have facilitated knowledge sharing, technology transfer and capacity building, creating avenues for joint research, innovation and development initiatives.

UWN: What are some of the current problems that KNUST is helping to solve?

DNB: KNUST recognises the importance of sustainable development in Ghana and beyond. For this reason, the university is engaged in research in areas such as renewable energy, waste management, climate change mitigation and sustainable agriculture. The university is also committed to addressing healthcare challenges in Ghana.

The university’s medical school, the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, and its other research institutes focus on improving healthcare delivery, finding innovative solutions for diseases prevalent in the region, and advancing biomedical research.

Infrastructure and urban development have also become one of the universities main focus areas. For this reason, we are engaged in research and planning projects related to urbanisation, housing, transportation and infrastructure development. KNUST’s expertise in architecture, civil engineering, and urban planning contributes to finding sustainable solutions for urban challenges.

UWN: Research funding is a general problem for higher education institutions. How is KNUST coping with this problem?

DNB: KNUST provides support and guidance to its faculty and researchers in developing competitive grant proposals. The university has established dedicated offices and units, such as the Office of Grants and Research, to assist researchers in identifying funding opportunities, preparing proposals and navigating the grant application process.

The university also actively seeks collaborations and partnerships with national and international organisations, government agencies, industries and funding bodies through the International Programmes Office.

By fostering these partnerships, KNUST enhances its access to funding opportunities, knowledge sharing and collaborative research initiatives. These partnerships may involve joint research projects, technology transfer and capacity-building programmes.

In addition, the university has established several research centres and institutes focused on specific thematic areas. These centres serve as hubs for research activities, and they often receive funding from external sources for their research projects.

By concentrating expertise and resources, KNUST can attract research funding specific to these centres’ areas of specialisation. The university has also engaged with its alumni network and encourages their involvement in supporting research and development initiatives.

It has also established endowment funds and alumni associations that contribute to research funding. Alumni donations, sponsorships and partnerships play a crucial role in supplementing research funding and supporting specific research projects.