The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Prof. George K. T. Oduro, has called on African governments to put premium on university education by investing more in the sub-sector to improve on the quality of delivery.
“if African governments want universities to deliver quality education and quality research, then they must prioritize university education and invest more in the sub-sector”, he noted.
He said African governments must enact policies that will enhance funding opportunities for universities.
Prof. Oduro made these statements at the Vice Chancellors Ghana (VCG) Conference on Higher Education held at the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) Conference Hall, University of Ghana, Legon. The maiden VCG conference was on the theme: “Funding Public Universities in Africa – the New Paradigm”.
Citing Ghana as an example, Prof. Oduro said in the 1940s funding of Universities were the sole responsibility of African governments. “Universities received 100% budgetary allocation which were released far before the commencement of each academic year. There was no experience of delayed payment of staff salaries”, he noted.
Prof. Oduro said funding was even extended to providing students personal needs. “Students were provided with almost everything, including pocket money by the government, just to ensure that the needed psychological and physiological comfort was obtained for smooth scholarly work” he stated.
According to Prof. Oduro the trend started changing from the mid-1990s when universities began experiencing dwindling government funding. He said that in 1996 government funding was reduced by 26.3%; thus universities received only 73.7 % of the total amount needed for their operations.
He said in spite of the setting up of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) to fund major infrastructure developments of universities, a number of these projects including lecture theatres, science laboratory, libraries and administrative offices had stalled for over 10 years.
Ever since the introduction of cost sharing in 1997, Prof. Oduro said universities had never received the full government subvention. He added that universities now had to borrow from the banks to pay salaries of workers before they were reimbursed later by government. He said sometimes it had to take more than four months before the reimbursement was done.
On the need to review funding policies, Prof. Oduro said African governments must revoke policies that seek to stifle funding facilities available to universities. “For example, a policy relating to IGF that seeks to centralize the processes of utilizing university’s internally generated funds needs to be revisited,” he said.
He recommended that Government approved budgetary allocations were released on time to universities. “In situations, where subventions are unduly delayed by Governments or Parliamentary decisions on student fees are unduly delayed, it creates unnecessary tension on campuses, throws planned activities overboard and adversely affects operations of the university,” he stated.
Prof. Oduro appealed to the Ministries of Finance across the sub-Region to be sensitive to the time-bound budgetary needs of universities and thereby ensure early release of subventions. Time they say, is money.
He concluded that: “Meeting the human resource and infrastructural needs of African universities which are necessary for achieving quality in university education requires adequate budgetary allocation”.
A former president of Association of African Universities (AAU), Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, in his presentation said Ghana and Nigeria had their first universities in 1948 and shared a lot of things in common. He noted that most of West African universities shared similar features and challenges.
Some of the features he mentioned included: physical characteristics common goals and aspirations; weakness and helplessness; historical affinity, social economic status and cultural relationship. Some of the challenges he stated were; corruption, bad governance, brain drain, Infrastructural deficit, increased enrolment, inadequate planning and data.
In Nigeria, he said, there were three major sources of funding available to the universities and they include government, Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) and external interventions.
Prof. Oloyede said the fact that universities could no longer depend on governments alone meant that there was the need for university leaders to rethink, retool and regenerate in order to generate enough funds for their activities.