Ghanaian university founder wins $500K Wise Prize

Patrick Awuah set up institution to focus on critical thinking, ethics and collaboration

November 15, 2017
Patrick Awuah receives 2017 Wise Prize

The founder of a private, not-for-profit institution that has become one of Ghana’s leading universities in little over a decade has won a $500,000 (£380,000) prize.

Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University College in Accra, was presented with the World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) Prize for Education in front of 2,000 delegates from 100 countries at the event in Doha, Qatar.

A graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of California, Berkeley, and a former Microsoft employee, Mr Awuah opened Ashesi in a rented house with a first class of 30 students in 2002.

It now educates nearly 900 students on a 100-acre campus, offering four-year degrees in engineering, business administration and computer science. The degrees are based on an interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasises leadership, ethics and entrepreneurship.

Half of Ashesi’s students are on full or partial scholarships, and half the students are women. Before graduating, all students must undertake community service.

Mr Awuah said: “I decided to create a new university in Ghana not because of a lack of universities in my country but a lack of universities teaching 21st-century skills.

“There was too much emphasis on rote learning and memorisation, much less on critical or independent thinking, ethics or collaboration. I decided to open a university that would offer young Ghanaians and Africans the opportunity to excel and become problem solvers – the next leaders of Africa.”

The Wise Prize gold medal was presented to Mr Awuah by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chair of the Qatar Foundation.

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