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New bill to provide for sustainable research funding

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New bill to provide for sustainable research funding

A Tertiary Education Research Fund Bill has been prepared to provide for more sustainable funding of research to drive national growth and development.

Opening a national summit on tertiary education in Accra supported by non-governmental organisation TrustAfrica, Education Minister Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang said the objective of the bill, which will be considered by cabinet and parliament, was “to provide financial resources to support, promote and publicise research in public universities and polytechnics”.

“It is expected that when the bill is passed into law, funds will be made available to promote and support the development of research, primarily in national priority areas, as it happens in any country,” she said. “This would promote efficiency in the application of funds dedicated to research in tertiary education.”

Opoku-Agyemang said the government was collaborating with the World Bank through the Association of African Universities to implement the Africa Centres of Excellence Project. This initiative seeks to promote regional specialisation among participating universities to address specific and common regional development challenges in areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics as well as health and agriculture.

“It is expected that this programme will boost postgraduate education in Ghana,” she said. 

New universities

Opoku-Agyemang said the government was working towards the provision of one public university in each administrative region and preparations were underway to establish a new university in the Eastern Region. 

This development comes on the heels of plans to convert into independent universities the campuses of the University for Development Studies – the Wa campus in the Upper West Region, Navrongo campus in the Upper East Region and Nyakpala campus in the Northern Region.

She said the rapid expansion of tertiary education institutions required strengthening of regulatory oversight to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public institutions and quality outcomes in all institutions, both public and private.

“In this regard, the ministry of education in collaboration with the regulatory bodies – the National Council for Tertiary Education or NCTE and the National Accreditation Board or NAB – have initiated processes to strengthen these bodies to foster effective oversight of tertiary education institutions,” Opoku-Agyemang said.

She said the government was also considering proposals for the review of the enabling legislation of the NCTE and NAB to better position them to respond to emerging issues in tertiary education in Ghana. 

Skills for national development

Opoku-Agyemang said one of the main priorities of the education sector was to provide quality tertiary education to develop skills for national development. “Our strategy is to strengthen quality regulation through institutional visitation and auditing of academic progress,” she said.

“The main interventions in this area include assessment of new and existing academic programmes in tertiary education institutions and the conducting of academic audits to assess the extent of compliance to national minimum requirements and standards.” 

In addition, Opoku-Agyemang said there would be institutional visits and monitoring to ensure that institutions meet minimum standards and adhere to the terms under which they were accredited. 

There are also plans to develop and deploy new accreditation management information system software to foster data collection and analysis of quality issues in tertiary education.

Research co-ordination

Speaking on the topic of “Research in Higher Education: Agenda for tertiary education in Ghana”, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences John Gyapong said there was no single mechanism in existence for coordinating all research agendas in universities. Currently, individual research institutions have their own systems for generating research agendas which are often a direct response to the needs of the international community, and are therefore uncoordinated. 

Gyapong said research had the potential to drive improvements to advance social and economic power. Higher education institutions were strategic national institutions that should assist in social and economic development through the generation of new knowledge. 

Together, they play a key role in promoting research and innovation, which is critical in driving national development, he said.

Gyapong said growth in developed countries resulted primarily from investment in research and innovation, and said there was the need in Ghana to promote linkages between higher education institutions, industry and other research users.