Academic freedom under threat; Prof Gyampo condemns ‘bogus’ draft Public Universities Bill

Academic freedom under threat; Prof Gyampo condemns ‘bogus’ draft Public Universities Bill

Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana, Prof Yaw Gyampo, has vowed to resist what he says are attempts by the government to deny public universities academic freedom.

His comments follows the release of a draft Public Universities Bill by the Ministry of Education “to provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities, principles of management of Public universities, the legal status of Public universities, the procedure for financing Public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of Public universities and related matters.”

Prof Gyampo says his preliminary reading of the proposed law points clearly to an attempt by the Executive to control the administration of public universities, a move he has described as totalitarian.

“Per the draft bill I have read, the government is seeking to reduce the composition of the Public University Councils from the average of 15 to 9. With this number, the government wants to appoint more people than other constituents.

“This is the first step at mortgaging the independence and freedom of academic institutions. With a government controlled Council, people critical of government can be dealt with in any way. This would relapse independent minds into a culture of silence,” the head of European Studies at the University of Ghana wrote on his Facebook page.

Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education, Vincent Asaffuah, had said the proposed law was only to allow the input of lecturers before the bill is presented to Parliament.

However, reacting to this explanation, Prof Gyampo said it was insulting for the Education Ministry “drafted a document that seeks to undermine our academic freedom and yet want us to discuss. That’s disrespectful. Were you thinking we weren’t going to read and scrutinise?”

Clauses 5 and 12, the contentious clauses in the 48-clause bill stipulate among others that the governing body of a Public University is a Council which shall consist of the following nine members appointed by the President:

(a) a chairperson nominated by the President;

(b) the Vice-Chancellor;

(c) four persons nominated by the President, one of whom shall be a woman;

(d) one representative of the registered Unions in the university on rotational basis

(e) one representative of the University convocation elected by the convocation;

(h) one representative of the students of the University, nominated by the

Students’ Union; and

(j) one representative from the National Council for Tertiary Education who shall be a non-voting member.

It also states that the chairperson and other members of the Council shall be appointed by the President in accordance with article 70 of the Constitution.

The President may dissolve and reconstitute the council in cases of emergencies or appoint an interim council to operate for a stated period, according to the draft bill.

The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) backs Prof Gyampo that, should the bill pass, the government will have extensive powers to control public universities, in violation of academic freedom.