Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has cautioned government not to rush to present the draft University Bill to Parliament without broader consultation.
Asantehene, who is also the Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science Technology (KNUST), stressed that a broader consultation on the new bill where views of stakeholders would be incorporated into the draft bill would ensure peace and tranquility on the various university campuses in the country.
“The interest generated by the general public in the bill should give a strong signal to the government to accommodate divergent views being expressed by key stakeholders such as the Vice Chancellors Ghana, University Teachers Association of Ghana and Members of Convocation across all the public universities,” he urged.
“Ultimately, the concerns and interest of all major stakeholders must be seen to have been taken on board in the final draft for the sake of harmony and industrial peace on campuses. All stakeholders must respect the views of others and avoid must confrontation and consolidation of positions on the bill,” the occupant of the Golden Stool added.
Otumfuo made these observations during a graduation ceremony at KNUST for postgraduate students at the weekend.
“I strongly urge the government to allow further and broader consultations in order to iron out any grey areas before the bill is placed before Parliament for consideration,” he advised.
The government is introducing a new universities bill which is aimed at ensuring harmony in the management and administration of public universities.
The government has cited archaic laws at some universities as justification for proposing the Public Universities Bill.
The proposed law, which is being sponsored by the Ministry of Education, spells out the procedure for the establishment of public universities, the principles of management of public universities and the legal status of public universities.
The bill, which is expected to be sent to Parliament for consideration, also seeks to provide the procedure for financing public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of public universities and related matters.
But, stakeholders including the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), have criticised aspects of the bill.
The academics and members of the opposition have also raised concerns about some of the clauses in the bill.
UTAG, for instance, opposed the draft bill, describing it as an attack on academic freedom.
UTAG Vice President for the University of Ghana-Legon, Dr Samuel Inkumbaan, said instead of a law for all public universities across the country, the government should table specific outdated laws in each university for parliamentary review and amendment.
According to him, every public university had been established for a particular purpose and hence a blanket law for all universities would be untenable.
“For example, if you have a University of Ghana or a University of Science and Technology (KNUST), it comes with its statues; it comes with its legal backing spelling out specifically what the university established is supposed to be doing.
“And so to say that you are generalising the act, which governs the operations of all the universities within the country seems to be the case that you expect KNUST to operate like the University of Allied Sciences,” he said.
He added, “Indeed these universities are established specifically for specific purposes – considering the development needs of our country.”
However, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has described the criticisms as mischievous.
According to the President, the new universities bill would not, in any way, undermine academic freedom in public universities as being peddled by critics.
Addressing the first session of the University of Professional Studies’ 11th Congregation at the UPSA Auditorium recently in Accra President Akufo-Addo said: “The flimsy allegations being perpetrated that the bill will undermine academic freedom are deliberate mischief-making and disingenuous.”
Story: Atta KWAKU BOADI
Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org