Opinions differ greatly about the task assigned to the Visitation Panel as well as its eventual recommendations. The first time I heard of this panel was during the build up to the 2013 SRC elections. Some aspirants blamed the said panel for the introduction of what they described as the “crippling” grading system. Such oral tradition is easy for people to fall for; when contemporary issues are left in the remits of oral tradition, this is the least to be expected.
The said Panel published its report in December 2007. Eight years on, a look at the report makes an interesting read.
The task assigned to the Panel comes to bare in a line in the preface of the report that reads:
“The University of Ghana requested a visitation by an international panel because of the perceived deterioration of its teaching and learning functions and the quality of its operations generally. It invited the Panel to review its activities and recommend steps that would enhance its role as Ghana’s premier university and research institution and enable it to become a leader in global higher education.”
The Panel was charged to review the following
1. The academic programmes at the University of Ghana to determine their currency, quality and relevance to the mission of creating world-class human resources and capabilities to meet national development needs.
2. The infrastructure and resources currently in place and to advise on additional resources (physical, financial and human) required to enable the University adequately discharge its mandate to an internationally accepted standard.
3. The University’s administrative and governance structures, its systems and procedures and to advise on their appropriateness and adequacy in relation to the twin goals of effectiveness and efficiency.
4. Any other matters which in the opinion of the panel, are relevant to the issues at stake.
Some key members of the Panel were Sir John Daniel, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) (Chair); Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Secretary-General Association of African Universities and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana (ViceChair); Professor Marian Ewurama Addy, Retired Professor of Biochemistry, University of Ghana; Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong, Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University, USA; Mr. Ato Pobee Ampiah, Managing Director of Crystal Auto Ltd.; Professor Emeritus E.Q. Archampong among others.
The core of the Panel’s report was captured under three sections;
1. Governance, Management and Administration.
2. The University of Ghana as an Academic Institution.
3. Infrastructure and Resources.
The focus of this piece will be on the University of Ghana as an academic institution.
Panel View and Recommendation on University of Ghana as an institution
The Panel didn’t mince words in blaming the Universities’ population explosion as the cause of many of its problems. The Panel’s assessment of the figures led the Panel to such a conclusion; student enrollment had increased from 2,525 in the 1970/1971 academic year to 27,414 in 2004/2005, while the faculty to student ratio interestingly decreased from 1:5.5 to over 1:30. In the same period, government budget allocation to the University dropped from around 2,200 dollars per student to under 600 dollars. The Universities’ population at that time was 28, 480.
The Panel made the following recommendations;
Reducing the intake of students; placing a limit on class size; balancing student numbers with physical infrastructure and faculty capacity; introducing stronger policy for gender parity; promoting distance learning to absorb continuing demand; and expanding Accra City Campus.
The Panel aside recommending that the University creates a balance between science and technology and the humanities, went further to recommend the enforcement of the PHD requirement for appointment to Lectureship, development of a pro active policy to attract and retain faculty through new incentives. Curriculum review, postponement of the implementation of the collegiate system until other recommendations of the Panel was fully implemented, review of the graduate programs, an in-depth study of the semester-course/credit system with a focus on examinations among others.
Eight years down the lane
After adoption and implementation of the Panel’s report, a look at the strides University of Ghana has made over with the world rankings as focus. As at the time the Panel was set up, University of Ghana had placed 40th in Africa and 5,702 in the world (2007 rankings).
The 2015 rankings paint a completely different picture from that observed eight years ago, University of Ghana placed 701 in the World University Ranking (placed 5,702) ,Thomas Reuteurs placed University of Ghana 10th on the continent.
If the ranking is anything to go by, then UG’s progress has been remarkable. An assessment of the institution in light of other recommendations would be worthwhile in subsequent sequels.