African universities must “break away” from the “reliance on the poor taxpayer” for funding and instead broaden their income sources to “help preserve their independence and academic freedom”.
That is the view of Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, vice-president of Ghana, who told the Times Higher Education Africa Universities Summit on 28 April that institutions “must safeguard the future of institutions by developing sustainable ways of financing their activities”.
He added that African institutions were initially funded by “humble farmers” and “members of the community”, not from “bequests of millionaires”, and, as such, institutions across the continent “must have a much higher sense of social orientation”.
The comments formed part of Mr Amissah-Arthur’s opening speech at the summit, which was held at the University of Ghana.
“Broadening finance will help preserve independence and academic freedom. You can only do that if you’re not asking somebody else to finance you,” he said.
“Universities need to break away from this reliance on the poor taxpayer. They must safeguard their future.”
He added that there was a mismatch between the courses provided by institutions and jobs available, which meant that universities across the continent create “graduates with huge expectations of lifestyle” but “without the skills that allow them to get a job”.
“That is what I see universities replicating every day,” he said.
Highlights of the THE Africa Universities Summit 2016
“Every private university is conducting courses in marketing. They are creating skills that cannot be utilised fully. Therefore it leads to unemployment."
He said that a key focus for African universities must be to increase access for all types of students, in particular addressing the low proportion of female students.
“Admissions policy must be more radical and more inclusive and attentive to the gender issue,” he said.
“The provision of access is not just a moral obligation. It’s not an economic necessity. It’s more than that. It’s based on rational determination. We don’t need access in the abstract but access that produces results.”
He said that African governments are a “necessary” component for promoting access and the Ghanaian government will “continue to nudge universities and other stakeholders to confront important policy directions”.
African universities must ensure that they are not “elite” institutions located “far away from the hustle and bustle of town” and “away from conflict”, he added.
“In Africa, universities must engage,” he said.
As well as diversifying funding streams, Mr Amissah-Arthur said that the key objectives for African universities are the “timeless pursuit of scholarship and excellence” and the “preservation of academic freedom” by “keeping free from interference”.