Public universities in the country must consider mergers to be rated among the best in the world, Professor Goski Alabi, Dean at the Centre for International Education and Collaboration (CIEC) at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), has proposed.
“It is not mergers of the private universities alone but it is even the mergers of the public universities, because, from an international point of view, higher education is a big business right now and there are different forms of marketing tactics that are being employed.
For ratings and rankings purposes, countries themselves, at the national level, have strategies for the development of tertiary education because it is no longer a local competition, it has become a global competition; higher education is global business. So, we need to look at it from that point of view,” she told the B&FT in an exclusive interview.
Currently, there are about 10 public universities as well as 72 private universities operating in the country. However, the University of Ghana is the only institution ranked by major university ranking associations.
According to the 2017 edition of Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, one of the foremost global ranking institutions, the University of Ghana was the only Ghanaian university that made an appearance between 601 and 800th, and came in at 125th among the BRICS & Emerging Economies.
Other universities including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the University of Cape Coast, and the University for Development Studies (UDS), top-ranked schools in the country, were not even placed among the rankings in 2017.
Currently, South Africa has seven institutions in The World University Rankings with the University of Cape Town leading the African continent at 148th.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal, a 2004 merger of the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, currently ranks between 501-600th on the global ranking and comes 58th in the BRICS & Emerging Economies ranking.
Prior to the merger, both universities were nowhere near the top-ranked institutions of higher learning on the continent.
The ranking’s methodology uses performance indicators that are grouped into five areas; teaching-the learning environment; research-volume, income and reputation; citations-research influence; international outlook-staff, students and research; and industry income-knowledge transfer.
Due to the poor positioning of Ghana’s premier institution of higher learning, Professor Alabi is of the view that, for example, if the University of Ghana could merge with either the University of Cape Coast or the KNUST, a Ghanaian institution could rank higher than the current level.
“Currently, ratings and rankings of universities are based on the quantum of research output. About 75 to 80percent is based on research output. It is not just the quality of the research but it is also the quantum of the research,” Prof. Alabi said.
She added that what many countries are doing now is engineering the merger of universities so they can place higher and attract more students and earn higher income.
The University of the West of Scotland, for instance, was created from the merger of several institutions including the University of Paisley, Bell College of Technology, Craigie College of Education and Dumfries and Galloway College of Nursing.
“With University of the West of Scotland, they brought together the smaller institutions. If you go to South Africa they have the University of KwaZulu Natal, which is a merger of several institutions.
From the work I do, I have gotten the opportunity to visit and access some of these institutions. You sit with the authorities and ask the rationale behind some of these things and they tell you one of them is to enhance our performance on the global rankings,” she added.
According to her, to be on the global rankings, it is about how much research an institution can put out there, not just the quality but also the quantity. “In global rankings there is a threshold and if a university does not meet that threshold it cannot participate”, stressing that “your name will not even appear.”
In the past, the calls for university mergers have mainly been directed to only private universities as most of them lack the capacity to operate independently.
Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, in an interview with the B&FT said that majority of private universities in the country lack the capacity to operate independently, calling for mergers for struggling ones to ensure quality in the country’s education system.
“If some of the private universities, which lack the capacity, will merge to make sure we bring quality to the system, it will be in the right direction. Because the intent is to make money, it is business as usual. But on the flip side of it, we should also think about quality. The products that will come out of the university should be able to fit into the job market.”
Source: Benson AFFUL & Bernard Yaw ASHIADEY/thebftonline.com/Ghana