Contributed, and revised December 1996, by: Daniel, G. F., Registrar, University of Ghana

(Published in The Commonwealth Universities Year Book 1997-98; Vol.1; pp 649-656)


The history of university education in Gold Coast, now Ghana, is the history of education commissions, one every few years, beginning with the Asquith Commission appointed by the Government of the United Kingdom in August 1943 to 'consider the principles which should guide the promotion of higher education, learning and research and the development of universities in the colonies; and to explore means whereby universities and other appropriate bodies in the UK may be able to co-operate with institutions of higher education in the colonies in order to give effect to these principles'

The Asquith Commission identified centres around the colonies already engaged in university-type programmes of study including Achimota College (established in 1924), where, according to the commission's report of 3 May 1945, 'students are accepted in the college for the courses leading to the following examinations of the University of London- Intermediate Arts, Intermediate Science, Intermediate Engineering, BSc (Engineering), Intermediate Science (Economics). A department for the training of primary teachers provides a four years' course for students who have completed primary education. In 1943 there were 98 post-secondary students including (two women), some of whom came from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. The College is provided with ample buildings well laid out on high ground'.

The commission's report included also the following recommendation: 'In the interest of higher education in the colonies it is essential that there should be established as at early a date as possible universities in those areas which are not now served by an existing university. The immediate objective is to produce men and women who have the standards of public service and capacity for leadership which the progress of self government demands, and to assist in satisfying the need for persons with the professional qualification required for the economic and social development of the colonies'.

Next was the commission appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in June 1943 to 'report on the organisation and facilities of the existing centres of higher education in British West Africa, and to make recommendations regarding future university development in that area'.

Confirming the existence of a 'university department' at Achimota 'which prepares students mainly for the External Intermediate Examinations of the University of London in arts and science. It also prepares students for the London external degree of BSc (Engineering) although the numbers taking this course have been small', the commission, which was chaired by the Rt. Hon. Walter Eliot, recommended in a report dated 13 June 1945 that 'there should now be set up a university college in Nigeria and a university college in the Gold Coast... the university college in the Gold Coast to include facilities of arts and science and an institute of education'.

On the basis, however that secondary school teaching was not sufficiently widespread or good enough to sustain the numbers required for a viable university in both Nigeria and the Gold Coast, a minority report submitted as follows:'In opposition to our colleagues we recommend the immediate establishment of only one institute of university rank to serve the whole of British West Africa'.

The British Government has been inclined to proceed on the basis of the minority report which proposed the single university to be sited in Nigeria. The people of the Gold Coast, however, made it known that they did not only desire a university of their own, but that indeed they would contribute funds towards such a development.

By an ordinance dated 11 August 1948, the University College of the Gold Coast was established 'For the purpose of providing for promoting university education, learning and research'.

The recommendation of the Asquith Commission included an inter-university council to advise on higher education in the British Colonies. The inter-university council served the University College of the Gold Coast in an advisory capacity, but it approved all academic appointments.

On establishment, the University College of the Gold Coast became part of the time-tested 'scheme of special relationship' under which the new university college taught according to the University of London programmes, which in some cases had been modified to suit local conditions. The examination were University of London examinations; the degrees and diplomas awarded to successful candidates, were also degrees and diplomas of the University of London.

On 6 March 1957 the Gold Coast became the new sovereign state of Ghana, providing opportunities for bilateral and multilateral educational, scientific, trade and economic agreements with the international community, of which advantage could be taken for the betterment of higher education. What was to obtain in the new scheme of things was left to be advised by the International Commission on Higher Education (chaired by the Hon. Kojo Botsio, Minister of Agriculture), appointed in 1960 by the Government of the First Republic.

On the recommendation of the international commission the University of Ghana was, by an act of parliament of 1961, created from the former University College of the Gold Coast. Other outcomes from the international commission included confirmation that the College of Technology established at Kumasi since 1951 could become a second university. Formally launched in 1961 as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the new university was in 1966 renamed the University of Science and Technology (UST), Kumasi. A further outcome was the recommendation for a new university college to be created from a post-secondary college for training science teachers at Cape Coast. The primary purpose of the University College of Cape Coast, established in 1962, was to produce graduate teachers. The university college has since 1971 become the University of Cape Coast, still committed to training teachers but as comprehensive in its programmes as the other universities.

Responding to the developments, including the various education commissions already mentioned, and others that have reported since - Busia (1966), Kwapong (1967), Dzobo (1974) - progress made in higher education from 1948 until before the present decade may be seen in two phases. The first phase is the period 1948-61 when in 'special relationship' with the University of London, the University College of the Gold Coast/University College of Ghana offered limited programmes of study with hardly any at the post graduate level. The second phase is the period since 1961 when sovereign universities have emerged, offering more comprehensive programmes, and under a 'scheme of special relationship' with select local institutions, external programmes as well.

Of external programmes under local schemes of special relationship, early examples were those offered at the University College of Cape Coast (1962-71) to enable students obtain University of Ghana degrees in both the science and the arts. Trinity College at Legon and the Catholic Major Seminaries at Pedu and Tamale, sponsored respectively by the Christian Council of Ghana and the Catholic Church of Ghana, continue to run external programme in the study of religions in combination with subjects in the humanities for the bachelor's degree of the University of Ghana. The Baptist Christian Seminary and the Christian Service Mission, both at Kumasi, and the Ghana Institute of Languages in Accra teach only programme leading to diplomas of the University of Ghana. From its inception, the Institute of Adult Education at the University of Ghana maintained centres (now including one in each of Ghana's 10 political regions) which continue to offer courses of interest to the working population. The institute's Workers' College at Accra offers a part time degree programme requiring 5 years of study for students who are also in full employment.

For all of the above developments, the Universities Rationalisation Committee appointed by the government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and chaired by Mrs. Esi Sutherland-Addy, deputy secretary for education, reported in 1988 that only 0.7 per cent of the relevant age group was represented at university whereas a much higher rate of attendance is the case in many developing countries and indeed in some developed countries up to 50 percent of the relevant age group can hope to attend college.

An educational reform programme initiated since September 1987 seeks to make good under representation of the age group at every level of education. The reform seeks also to bring all post-secondary education, including polytechnics and universities, under the umbrella of tertiary education; to diversity the curriculum to provide more especially of science, technology and vocational training; and to provide the movement across institutions and continuity from one institution to another. Distance learning programmes, via mail, radio and television, feature prominently in the plans for greater accessibility.

For increased access, the University for Development Studies, established 15 May 1992 by PNDC Law 279, has enrolled students since 1993 at Tamale, northern Ghana. The university combines academic studies with practical training in subjects relating to agriculture, social sciences, health, environment and culture, using and relying on, as far as possible, materials available in the northern part of the country. The University for Development Studies has been assigned a unique role in the history of higher education in Ghana as the first university expected to establish campuses at several of the administrative regions (Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West) in the northern part of Ghana. Its mission is to find solutions to the deprivations and environmental problems which characterise northern Ghana in particular, and are found also in varying degrees in rural areas throughout the country. The university include facilities of agriculture, integrated development studies, and applied science, a centre for interdisciplinary research, and from 1996 a school of medicine and health sciences.

To increase access further, the University College of Education at Winneba took its first batch of students in 1993. Comprising previously independent institutions including the Advanced Teacher Training College, the Specialist Training College and the National Academy of Music, all at Winneba, the School of Ghanaian Languages at Ajumako, the Advanced Technical Teachers College at Kumasi, the St Andrews Agricultural Teachers' College at Asante-Mampong, and the College of Special Education at Mampong-Akwapim, the college university was established under PNDC Law 322 to be in special relationship with the University of Cape Coast 'to provide higher education and foster the systematic advancement of the science and art of teacher education'.

University training for the professions deserves very special mention, first by noting that Achimota College had graduated its first student in engineering in 1935, followed by a few others who also took degrees in engineering, long before the inauguration in 1948 of the University College of Gold Coast. Engineering is now represented at the University of Science and Technology at Kumasi in all its major specializations including civil, chemical, electrical and electronic, geodetic and mechanical. And at Tarkwa, where gold mining has been an on-going business since the turn of the century, the school of mines has been established as part of the University of Science and Technology, to offer training in mining engineering and mineral technology. Also at the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, training is available in architecture, building technology, industrial art and book industry, land economy and estate management, pharmacy and medicine, physical, urban and regional planning.

The department of commerce at the College of Technology, Kumasi, was the first to offer training in accountancy. The College was transferred to Achimota in 1961 to become the College of Administration, and has since 1971 been integrated, with faculty status, into the University of Ghana. Now known as the School of Administration, it offers courses in accounting business administration, management, marketing, public administration, health services administration, finance and banking, and insurance. A department of commerce at the University of Cape Coast also runs similar courses.

Based at the nations's largest referral hospital at Korle Bu, near Accra, is the University of Ghana medical school where training in medicine first began in 1962. The Ghana Medical School, as it was then called, has since 1968 been incorporated, with faculty status, into the University of Ghana. The school's programmes now include dentistry and medical laboratory technology.

Law is available at the University of Ghana's faculty of law, and at the faculty of social sciences at UST. Students graduating in law, however, have to continue their professional studies at the Ghana Law School in Accra to be called to the Bar. Provided they have university degrees, others who may not have studied law for their first degree are also eligible for admission to the Ghana Law School for training to practice as barristers and solicitors.

Professional training for careers in the media are available at the graduate school of communication studies at the University of Ghana where the programmes provide for practitionership in print, broadcast, and televison journalism, and public relations. The school also offers programmes for those interested in academic careers in media studies.

All university level training in education is now concentrated at the University of Cape Coast which, as already indicated, also supervises specialised programmes available at the University College of Education at Winneba.

Training in agriculture is available in all the universities.


Considered by the international commission of 1960, proposals for a federal university with campuses at Accra and Kumasi were abandoned when the commission's terms of reference, given by the Government of the First Republic, changed mid-stream, in consequence of which the University of Ghana at Legon and the University of Science and Technology at Kumasi were established in 1961 as separate sovereign universities, while the University of Cape Coast could begin in 1962 only as a university college affiliated to the University of Ghana.

Of the new universities which have come into being since the beginning or the present decade, the University for Development Studies at Tamale was established directly as a sovereign university while the University College of Education at Winneba is an affiliate of the University of Cape Coast.

Arrangements for the internal governance of each university, sovereign or affiliate, provide for a chancellor or titular head, a vice-chancellor or principal(Winneba) as executive head, a governing council including both academic and lay person, and an academic board or senate including ex-officio and elected members to advise council on academic matters.

Ghana's universities are committee-run. Regulated by statute as a composition, functions, quorum and all, the academic board or senate and all its sub-committees include professor and heads of departments serving ex-officio, and others who are elected from the departments or from convocation, which is an administrative or professional staff convened at least twice a year.

Comprising 14 members, the governing council of each university now includes a chairman and 3 others appointed by government and a vice-chancellor appointed by council, with the rest of the membership deriving from the education commission(1), convocation(2 to represent professorial/non-professorial class), students (2 including 1 graduate student), alumni(1), conference of heads of assisted secondary schools(1) teachers and educational workers' union (1), and the university teachers' association of Ghana (1). In attendance are a representative of the higher education division of the Ministry of Education, the pro-vice-chancellor or vice-principal the finance officer of the institution, and the registrar as secretary.

Relationship with Government

While the minister of education has ministerial oversight of all levels of education including higher education and the universities, the National Council for Tertiary Education, with representation from the universities provides for formal consultation on education policy. It is also expected to be the medium for providing subvention to the universities and for reporting to government on the condition of higher education.

The National Accreditation Board and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, both recommended by the Universities Rationalisation Committee, represent additional formal structures for interaction with government and among the institutions falling under the tertiary sector. Besides rationalising admissions and seeing a fair distribution of qualified students, these bodies also ensure that institutions within the tertiary sector reach an acceptable national standard.

Through the Committee of Vice-Chancellor and Principals (Ghana), a non-statutory body (see also Inter-University bodies at the beginning of this volume), informal consultation on matters of common interest to the universities also takes place.


Income available to the universities derives mainly from government subvention and part also from the sale of application forms, fees from student registration, tuition paid by foreign students, issue of academic transcripts, consultancies, rent from university housing and from floor space leased for private catering and other businesses, the sale of produce from university farms, hospital and veterinary fees, bookshop sales, monies generated from printing houses on campus and from vehicle servicing at the estates' organisation.

Expenditure includes staff emoluments and allowances, passages for sabbatical and study leave, cost of instruction, cost of examining including passages and honoraria for external examiners, maintenance of staff houses and university buildings, hire of houses for entitled staff, utility charges form university buildings, insurance and maintenance of university vehicles, hospital services for entitled staff, provision of coffin, transportation and related services for deceased staff.

Income available to the university regularly falls short of expenditure, some of which peculiarly arises form the fact that, initially built far away from the city centre, the universities were obliged to provide their own municipal services. At various times services provided on campus have included staff housing, student house, electricity, water, telephone, bus services, postal services, air travel agency, bakery, catering, grocery, laundry, primary school, junior secondary school, chaplaincy, estates development, estates maintenance, ground maintenance, security, fire services, sanitation, hospital, pharmacy, mortuary. Provision of these services requires staff in large numbers all of them paid from the subvention received form government, which naturally tips the scales heavily on the expenditure side.

To rectify the imbalance between income and expenditure, the Universities Rationalisation Committee urges disengagement from services not quite critical to teaching and research, and retrenchment of the staff concerned. Disengagement from catering and retrenchment of catering staff have occurred since 1989, while other cost-saving measures continue to receive attention.

Meanwhile the bulk of the monies required for emolument and recurrent expenditure derives from the annual subvention received from government, representing about 95% of the universities' operating costs.

Pre-University Education

The traditional route to university, now being phased out, is a maximum of 10 years of primary school with options to take the highly competitive Common Entrance Examination between the 6th and 10th year, in order to enter secondary school for a 5-year curriculum leading to the West African School Certificate or the General Certificate of Education or Ordinary level Certificate (referred to commonly as GCE (O) Level), followed by a further 2 year of sixth form leading to the GCE Advanced (A) Level Certificate.

A new national school programme was established in 1987, providing for 9 years (6 years primary and 3 years junior secondary school) compulsory basic education for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. The programme provides for a further 3 years at senior secondary school where, allowing for the development of diversified talents, students may choose any one of 5 parallel concentrations, namely, general arts/science, agriculture, business, vocational, and technical studies.

The first batch of students trained in the new programme who qualify for university education entered the universities during the 1994-1995 academic year.

The examining body for the West African School Certificate and the GCE(O) and (A) Level Examinations is the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) which conducts examinations also for the Anglophone countries in the West Africa sub-region.

Examining at both junior secondary and senior secondary school involves continuous assessments done in the various schools, and a final comprehensive examination conducted by WAEC.


Selection for admission to university is made by an admissions board in each university. For the bachelor's degree, selection is now made from among two types of applicants, namely, Senior Secondary School Certificate holders on the one hand, and GCE (A) holders on the other hand. For the former, an average of grade D from 6 subjects including English and mathematics is the minimum required. For the latter, the minimum is passes at grade 6 or above in 5 subjects including English and mathematics, and any 3 at (A) level and a pass in the general paper, also at (A) Level.

Provision exists for the admission of mature students (minimum age 30) who undergo screening for assessment for their suitability for university education; others, with post-secondary diploma under certain conditions.

Students may also be admitted on transfer to continue their studies in Ghana if they have been attending a recognised university for at least 2 semesters and have maintained satisfactory grades.

Others may be admitted as occasional students for up to 2 semesters to audit courses of their choice, subject to the approval of a head of department or dean; such occasional students are not eligible to take university examinations and are not entitled to the award of grades.

Students on special admission are, however, eligible to take university examinations and to have their grades reported to their home universities; they should have been attending the home university for at least 1 year to qualify to come as special admission students.

Programmes offered at the certificate or diploma level have arrived at the universities because, until very recently, only in the universities could be found the cluster of expertise needed to begin those programmes which, being more to the polytechnics or other post-secondary institutions. Admission is 'open to candidates already engaged in those vocations, on passing an entrance examinations; others may be admitted on the basis of an (O) level pass in English and 2 other subjects from a certificate course, or passes in 4 other subjects for a diploma course.

Admission to postgraduate programme is open to candidates with a good first degree from universities in Ghana or from recognised universities elsewhere. For programmes with a more practical orientation practitioners in the field may be admitted, initially for a postgraduate diploma, on the basis of their professional experience rather than any formal academic qualification.

Against a background of scant infrastructural growth, admission has lately become more competitive from unanticipated causes. There has been a loss of 2 academic years since 1983, resulting from virtual shut-downs in the wake of on-campus agitation of one kind or another. In consequence, it had taken some students 2 additional years to complete their courses while others have had to defer entry to the university for that long. Originally meant to be a post-graduation exercise, National Service has been rescheduled to precede entry to university in order to keep school candidates occupied while waiting to enter university. Now there is a fallow year after National Service while students are still waiting to enter university. It is only in the third year after (A) levels that the students can hope for admission; and with so many candidates to choose from, including many who take advantage of the waiting period to improve upon performance in school examinations, the operative minimum grades for admission have come to be very high indeed. For instance, for the 1996-97 intake, many with an average of grade B in 3 subjects could barely make the admissions lists for the humanities, where before, science students with the barest minimum of grades were able to gain admission. Now, many such students are beginning to feel desperate.

Structure of Degree and Diploma Course.

The bachelor's degree is now a 4-year programme, though students entering the university with GCE (A)level passes may be admitted into year 2 of the programme. The modular system of instruction allowing for examination at the end of each semester and accumulation of grades for graduation now obtains. The new system of delivery of instruction should enable students, especially those who have to combine studies with work, to determine their own work load and pace of work, consistent with other demands on their time. Other advantages include a more flexible combination of courses, some of which may be taken for less than a year.

For most programmes in the humanities and the pure sciences, the student begins with the study of a number of subjects, tapering to a major subject with a minor or 2 subjects of equal weighting by the final year. Besides the requirements of the subject or subjects in which the student is registered to graduate, other requirements for graduation may include a university-wide requirement, for instance, a pass in a course in African studies, or a faculty requirement such as a pass in introductory mathematics for graduating in science, or a pass in various ancillary courses. Some bachelor's programmes require practical training during the long vacations, or a project undertaken during the final year, or an independent study, the report from which is submitted as a long essay of 4000-8000 words.

The bachelor's degree may be awarded with first class, upper second class or lower second class honours; there is also third class (which is awarded with honours by the University of Ghana) and pass.

The duration for a certificate course is 1 year or 2 semesters, and for a diploma course, 2 years or 4 semesters; in a minority of cases a certificate of diploma course takes a year or 2 semesters longer.

At the postgraduate level, a post graduate diploma requiring instruction and an examination at the end of one academic year may be taken. A master's degree of a 12-month duration involves examinable course work and a dissertation. For the MPhil degree, 2 years of study, including a year of course work, are required, followed by investigative work leading to a thesis. For a PhD. 3 years of study, which may include some course work followed by research and a thesis showing an original contribution to knowledge are the requirements.

It is possible to transfer to the MPhil and PhD programmes after the course work from the year-long master 's degree programme.

There are other programmes, especially those involving specialised professional courses like business or public administration (MBA/MPA) and public health (MPH), which take up to 2 years for which further course work may substitute for a thesis.

For each graduate student, a board of graduate studies approves a programme of work, the subject for a dissertation or thesis, a supervisory committee and supervisor, and examiners, both internal and external.

Postgraduate degrees are degrees of distinction to which only students who have distinguished themselves may be admitted. It is, therefore, considered unnecessary to award the degrees with honours; nor are they classified.

The degrees of DPhil and MD at the University of Ghana are available only to University of Ghana graduates of 10 years standing, who must submit a set of publications on an original work in a given area, adjudged to be equivalent to the work required for a PhD.

The degrees of LLD, DCL, DLitt. and DSc may be conferred honoris causa only.


Now almost wholly held by Ghanaian nationals (over 95 per cent), academic staff grades begin from lectureship, associated professorship, and full professorship, for each of which possession of at least an MPhil degree or other evidence of research competence is required. Assistant lectureship is available for a very limited period only to persons of promise who may not have obtained a research yet. Others, including native speakers of foreign languages or experts in practical fields of study in music and theatre arts who do not have requisite formal qualifications for lectureship, may be appointed as tutors.

Teaching is conducted in English through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials and practicals.

Full-time academic staff are expected to teach a minimum of 3 courses or 9 hours a week and to devote the rest of their time to research. Any teaching beyond 9 hours a week over 25-week teaching period of the year is compensated for by extra pay at the hourly rate payable to part-time staff, with the proviso that full-time staff may not earn more than half as much again of the annual basic salary. Full-time research staff may teach only one course in the year in addition to their research duties.

A year-long sabbatical leave may be taken by academic staff every seventh year; a 2-year sabbatical after 10 years of unbroken teaching or other academic work is also possible.

University salaries belong to a range in a national salary scheme in which, inclusive of allowances, the full professor receives the equivalent of US$350 a month, the associate professor about US$320, senior lecturer about US$270-296, lecturer about US$210-270 and assistant lecturer about US$177. Fringe benefits include a book allowance of US$600 a year for academic staff, house at a subsidised rent, a rebate on utility charges, free health-care, car maintenance allowance and , or heads of departments, responsibility and entertainment allowances.

Vacancies are filled by advertisement placed both locally and abroad. Salaries in Ghana are now not competitive enough to attract foreign national, though some who receive support from their home governments or international funding agencies are able to accept appointment. Foreign national now constitute less than 5 per cent of all staff at post. Scholars visiting under the Fulbright Fellowship or other reciprocal staff exchange programmes are provided rent-free accommodation on campus.

Staff may opt for the Universities of Ghana Superannuation Scheme to which university and staff contributions stand respectively at 12 percent and 5 per cent of salary. University and staff contributions may be paid also to a national pension scheme administered by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

Through a staff training programme which does not now receive enough funding, the universities in the past provided post-graduate training abroad for all who showed promise in the first degrees taken at home. Nearly all the older generation of academic staff (those over 50 years) received part of their training in universities in the United Kingdom, other Commonwealth countries and the USA. Current efforts are now geared to building a vibrant graduate studies programme to train staff locally; being local, the expenses exclude air fares and other costs related to travel abroad; therefore more can be admitted to these programmes which provide opportunity also for more research into local problems.


The typical contract of appointment requires academic staff to advance their subject by research, teaching and extension, in that order. Some staff are engaged in research full time as research fellows in the teaching departments or in institutes and centres devoted to full time research. Teaching staff may transfer to a research institute or take sabbatical leave in a research institute.

At the University of Ghana, research institutions include the institute of Adult Education, the Institute of African Studies, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, and the Regional Institute for Population Studies; other research facilities include the Languages Centre, the Volta Basin Research Project, the Centre for Tropical Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the agricultural research stations at Kade (tree crops), Kpong (cereals) and Legon(livestock). Other full-time research occurs within the Population Impact Programme(PIP) and the Remote Sensing Application Unit, both located at the department of geography and resource development. In addition, the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana collaborates with and complements work done at the Institute of African Studies and the School of Performing Arts.

At the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, research institutes include the Bureau of Integrated Rural Development, the Institute of Technical Education, the Land Administration Research Centre, the Centre for Cultural Studies and the Institute for Renewable Natural Resources.

At the University of Cape Coast, the Centre for Development Studies, the Institute for Educational Planning and Administration and the Institute of Education are among the university's research concentrations, while at the University College of Education at Winneba the Institute for Education Development and Extension leads research in the programming of distance education.

Established since 1960, the Council for Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR) now includes 17 research institutes, employing full-time scientific officers, some of whom teach part-time in the universities and are generally available to assist as supervisors in the training of postgraduate students registered with the universities, but using some of the council's facilities.

Established about the same time as CSIR, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has its offices and laboratories at Kwabenya, near Legon. Some of the staff are engages in collaborative research with staff on the University of Ghana. Others assist the University with teaching and supervision of graduate students.


Students study full-time though a few, usually graduate students, can afford only part-time study. Part-time evening classes are available also at the workers College in Accra for first degree students.

Of available residential places each year, up to 10 per cent are now reserved for graduate students; up to another 10 per cent are reserved for foreign students, many of whom now come on exchange programmes which run also in the long vacation.

Ghana's universities used to be fully residential. Complete with dinning halls, formal meals, chapels, libraries and recreational centres, the halls of residence are meant to provide interaction beyond the classroom between students assigned as junior members, and academic and senior administrative or professional staff who are assigned tutor from among fellows of the hall who function in loco parentis, providing advice to students on their academic work and other concerns. As, however the number of places in the halls now does not match the number of qualified students, non-residence has become a prominent feature of admissions. Non-resident students are still attached to halls of residence as junior members, and each has an assigned tutor.

Misgivings about halls of residence so elaborately conceived have been heard from time to time. While the concept has not much changed, various factors, including over-population and under-funding of the halls, have combined to undermine their capacity for significantly enhancing learning. Ordinary hostels are now much favoured and there are public financial institutions asking to be allowed to invest in hostels on campus.

Meanwhile, halls of residence are all-male, all-female or mixed. In each hall there is a junior common room with an elected student executive to serve for the year. The executive of the Student's Representative Council (SRC) is elected university-wide also to serve for a year, while nation-wide a National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) articulates students's views on all matters, not excluding national politics.

Student games are organised on each campus through the Amalgamated Sports Clubs which are served by full-time coaches. Besides inter-hall games of athletics, soccer, hockey, and basketball, there are regular inter-university games in these disciplines nationally and within the West African sub-region.

Students have representation on statutory university boards including the residence boards, health management boards, library board and other boards/committee concerned with student welfare. Student representation on the governing councils is the latest to come.

Student services provided by the universities include accommodation in halls of residence, health services, careers and counselling services, long vacation training placements, advisory services for foreign students, and student counselling generally through hall-based appointed tutors and a university appointed dean of students.

Student are required to complete a year's national service before entering university. The majority of students, therefore, arrive on campus at age 19-20. Older students - mainly mature students, graduate students and worker-students studying part-time-constitute about 20 per cent of the student population. At the University of Cape Coast where the student population includes many trained teachers who are back to school on study leave, the percentage of older students approaches 25-30. However, with the junior secondary school/senior secondary school pre-university system replacing sixth form and ordinary/advanced level examinations, students may be expected at university younger, aged 18-19.

Tuition is free for all Ghanaians, but in place of government grants for maintenance, there is now a national loans scheme, set up in 1988, which provides for each student an amount (currently the equivalent of US$350 for the year) for maintenance, which is adjusted annually to reflect prevailing conditions.

Scholarships, in the form of waiver of repayment of the maintenance loan, are available to all science students who sign a bond to serve the government of Ghana for 3 years on completion of their studies. Merit awards are also available to students who distinguish themselves in their chosen areas of study; for this category of students repayment of loans taken during their course is also waived.

All qualified Ghanaians accepted into any of the postgraduate programmes at any of the country's universities are now entitled to a government bursary/scholarship of equivalent amount to the maintenance loan to which they are also entitled.

In addition to government bursary/scholarship, the University of Ghana has a graduate fellowship programme which provides a monthly stipend of the equivalent of US$100 per month in maintenance, and US$1000 for research, to students earmarked for university teaching positions.

To foreign students, tuition is charged at US$1000 - 2000 per semester for undergraduate and US$1500-2500 for graduate students, plus examination fees etc; accommodation in a hall of residence is guaranteed for a fee which covers utilities but not meals. In addition to the above, it is estimated that foreign students would need about $3000 per annum for food, books and out-of-pocket expenses.

Except for tutorial assistantships and demonstratorships, to which graduate students may be appointed, there are hardly any employment opportunities for students on campus. The opportunities for off-campus work are not any better. During the long vacation, however, students may hope to engaged as tour guides, especially during the biennial Pan-African Festival of Arts (PANEST), which brings to Ghana large numbers of tourists, from North America especially.

Academic Year

The academic year, which is 32 weeks, is now divided into two semesters of 16 weeks each. The semesters normally run from September to December and from February to May. At the University for Development Studies, Tamale, however, in addition to tow semesters of 16 weeks each, running from September-February and March-July, there is a third session of 8 weeks (July-August), devoted to compulsory intensive field training, extension and practicals, all of which are assessed and credited for graduation.

Long Vacation Courses

For courses requiring practicals and industrial or office experience, internships are arranged for the long vacation through the careers and counselling offices, though placements have lately proved almost impossible because of difficulties in the economy.

Programmes leading to the postgraudate diploma in education are run in the long vacation at the University of Cape Coast for the benefit of teachers in the Ghana Education Service who are too busy at their work during regular terms.

Other long vacation courses for credit include the diploma course in statistics which is run at the University of Ghana for employees of the Central Bureau of Statistics and staff of banking houses who are unable to obtain releases for long periods of study.

There are suggestions, yet to be taken up, that in order to make more room in the regular semester programmes for qualified school-leavers, all sub-degree course might be given only during the long vacation.

For foreign students who are available only during the long vacation, programmes which count for gradation in their home universities may be arranged on request.

Continuing Education and Extension

Through courses organised by the Institute of Adult Education at its regional centres, recent school-leavers have the opportunity to improve upon poor grades obtained from (O)/(A) level examinations; others including adults who have not been through secondary school may also commence studies for (O)/(A) level examinations and may indeed proceed to part-time courses of a degree.

Twice a year at the Easter school and the New Year school, both organised by the Institute of Adult Education, individuals or groups may register to participate in lectures/seminars on a chosen theme. The suggestion has been heard before that given appropriate structuring and sequencing of the themes, enough credits could be accumulated from Easter and New Year schools over a number of years towards graduation or other certification.

At one regional centre (Tsito), a residential college brings in for short periods individuals who are anxious to learn new farming or fishing techniques. Using the facilities at Tsito, the Sasakawa Centre for the school of agriculture at the University of Cape Coast also runs similar programmes.

A collaborative effort between the universities aimed at a distance education programme along the lines of the Open University in Britain is soon to commence.

From its agricultural research stations at Legon (livestock research), Kpong (cereals) and Kade (tree crop), the University of Ghana provides extension services and advice to farmers within the vicinity. At the research station at Legon, there is also a residential training programme in farming available to persons engaged in farming selected from all over the country. There is no certification to tempt anyone into using the training to seek employment instead of returning to the farm. No fee is charged for the programme, the funding for which is provided by an external donor.

The Noguochi Memorial Institute for Medical Research runs a centre at Gomoa-Mprumen, Gomoa-Onyadze and at Fetteh where researchers in epidemiology, childhood diseases and nutrition, work with young mothers. Through its department of community health, UST provides extension services requiring interaction with village communities in and around the Ejisu-Juaben district, while at Boadi the university maintains a dairy/beef research station that also offers extension services to livestock farmers.

Inter-University Organization.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (Ghana) maintains a permanent secretariat at the University of Ghana manned by a senior assistant registrar who may be reached through the secretariat of the committee at P O Box 25, Legon, Ghana.

The universities also maintain a common office in London, the Universities of Ghana Overseas Office, manned by a senior assistant registrar who may be reached at 321 City Road, London ECIV ILJ.

Open to all categories of university staff, including both teaching and non-teaching staff, the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) has under industrial relations law a collective bargaining agreement certificate for negotiating conditions of service for all its membership. Historically, however, only the junior staff of universities are active members of TEWU; other categories of staff belong to exclusive non-unionised groups, including the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), and the Federation of University Senior Staff Association of Ghana (FUSSAG); the latest non-unionised staff association is the Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA). Except TEWU, which may be reached through its general secretary, TUC Headquarters, Accra, none of the staff associations has a permanent address yet, since the national executives rotates from campus to campus, year by year.

The Universities Today.

From the '98 post-secondary students, including two women, some of whom came from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia' which the Asquith Commission found to be an encouraging sign at Achimota in 1943, a population of university students which now stands at just under 20,000 represents considerable progress. Also, since the beginning of the last decade budgetary allocations to education have witnessed a dramatic increase. From 1.4 per cent in 1992, while education's share of the national recurrent budgetary increased from 17 per cent in 1981 to 36 per cent in 1992, and in 1995 was reported at 37 per cent.

Government's view is that 3.8 per cent of GDP and 37 per cent of the national recurrent budget represent the limit of public spending on education; and as far as higher education is concerned, not more and more universities, but rather post-secondary institutions (including polytechnics, teacher training college, and health training colleges) are now to be brought into the fold of tertiary education, while distance education programmes are to be offered to reduce the pressure on the universities.

It is significant, however, that the country's population has almost tripled since attainment of national sovereignty in March 1957, and is now estimated to be about 17 million including, as noted in 1988 by the Universities Rationalisation Committee, 7 per cent of the relevant age-group 6-15 receiving basic education. It is certain, therefore, that the demand for university places will increase rather than decrease. How to come by the additional resources to enable the universities cope with the pressure of numbers consistent with the maintenance of high standards of instruction is a major issue of higher education.

Finding additional resources through charging tuition fees to Ghanaian students is a political issue which remains unresolved. Fee-free university attendance is the legacy from the inception of the university when student numbers were small. In the changed circumstances, however, of a considerably increased national population and commitment of 100 per cent enrolment for basic education for age-group 6-15, and commitment also to increased access to higher education, government would welcome contribution to the required funding from wherever possible. On the other hand, the minimum daily wage is about US$1, while average incomes are such that many who could benefit from university education stand the risk of exclusion, because their parents cannot afford any significant contributions. Happily, there has been introduced by the government since 1988 a students' loan scheme to provide for student maintenance, repayable on completion of studies and on obtaining work. Administered by the Social Security and national Insurance Trust (SSNIT), the loans scheme could be explored for further assistance to meet students' other needs, which may now be itemised to include the cost of tuition and lodging. Considering, however, that others before them had it free, students are by no means enthused about the prospect of additional loans for their education.

It would be useful, in any case, for each student admitted to the university in future to receive from the government, or other sponsor, a named amount for tuition, to be paid to the university by the student at registration. Some such procedure should at the very least enable each department on campus to procure the appropriate instructional materials, in sufficient quantities

for the numbers registering. Additionally, such a procedure should enable the government to distribute students away from the over-subscribed disciplines; for if, over time, it became established that sponsorship was more available for some disciplines than for others, prospective students would see the signals.

To encourage a planned distribution of students across disciplines to arrive quickly at the ratio of 60 per cent science to 40 per cent arts (as urged by the Universities Rationalisation Committee), substantial sponsorships might be announced for science. Within science, still more substantial sponsorship might be provided to students in the basic sciences, as the applied sciences seem to have attractions of their own,

Initially, only as many students as could be accommodated, one to one, in cubicles in the halls of residence were to be admitted to university. Over time the cubicles were fitted with facilities for double occupancy, before non-residence was recognised as an option. Determination of student numbers, including the numbers that may now be non-resident, remains a problem, however. Recommendation made by the Universities Rationalisation Committee of determination to be based on student/staff ratios of 20:1 for education, 18;1 for the humanities, 12:1 for science and 8:1 for medicine, have been criticised as deriving from experiences elsewhere, but a uniquely Ghanaian set of ratios is yet to emerge.

Meanwhile, there are those who hold that but for the constraints of student lodgings and transportation for commuting to campus, not to mention inadequate classrooms, laboratories, reading rooms and rest rooms on campus, and the absence of graduate students in sufficient numbers to assist with tutorials and grading, the student population could exceed 20,000 considering the fact that, inclusive of part-time help, academic staff strength approached 2,000.

Through attractive graduate fellowships lately established by the University of Ghana, the prospect of recruitment of graduate students in large numbers now looks bright. Some of these graduate students could be engaged to assist with teaching as tutorial assistants and demonstrators. And from loans recently received from the World Bank and the African Development Bank, construction has begun on various campuses of additional facilities, including rest rooms and reading rooms, of which commuter students especially may take advantage to bring the student population nearer the numbers reported from other universities, even within the West African sub-region.

Owing to conditions of employment that have ceased to be attractive, staff recruitment and retention have proved especially difficult in the last two decades. While those trained abroad on the universities's staff development programmes are not anxious to return home, there are hardly any locally trained PhDs to be appointed. Of staff on the ground, the professors among them are past 50 and close to retirement. A contract appointment up to 65 for those still active in research is seen as one of the ways of ensuring a viable programme of graduate studies, from which future PhDs trained by an ageing faculty may be recruited to the universities. A further possibility is for the retiring age of academic staff to be extended from 60 to 65, though this would require an amendment to the constitution of the Fourth Republic.

For a sustained programmed of study up to postgraduate level, a modern, well-stocked and adequately funded library -providing access to vital literature wherever it is to be obtained - is critical. Also not be to overlooked are computers, audio-visual and other electronic equipment for searching, locating and reproducing reading material. Libraries in Ghana are yet to be fully integrated into global networking that CD-ROM and other modern information technology now make possible. However, a beginning has been made in this direction. CD-ROM technology is available in three of the universities, and electronic mail facilities have been set up, with the University of Ghana as national host, on-line through the GreenNet Fidonet Getway in London. Nodal points have been set up at the University of Ghana and in two other university campuses. The remaining two are to be connected soon. Attempts are also being made to achieve internet connectivity by early 1997.

Pronouncements made by government officials from time to time suggest disenchantment with the content and focus of academic programmes. A break from the purely academic seems to be one of the reasons for establishing the University for Development Studies, Tamale, which is meant to be an entirely novel institution, unattached to any established university, and free to explore integrated programmes directed, to begin with, a the development in the critical areas of agriculture and health care delivery. Realisation of these new expectations from this new venture may still prove elusive, unless the necessary support, including adequate funding, is provided for the new institution.

Nearly all research centres within the universities operate on earmarked funding received directly from the government. The common complaint is that current levels of funding assure little else besides salaries. Happily, some institutes are able to sustain work through consultancies. As, however, some kinds of consultancy work begin to divert effort from the fundamental research which is the mission of many of the research institutes there is cause for worry.

While funding underlies the problems facing the universities, the government is of the view that the universities must try to be self-sufficient. The Universities Rationalisation Committee urges the appointment of a business manager as one of the principal officers of each university, to run those aspects of the university's business which lend themselves to commerce. Responding to such promptings, the universities are engaged in income-generating activities of one kind or another. Some successes have already come to notice. Consultancies on campus are doing brisk business and some of the universities are now able to pay some of their staff-bookshop and dining hall staff, for instance-from their own resources. Proposals for joint-ventures with real estate developers and other business propositions are now receiving serious attention. But there is need for caution. Many state-run businesses, including some that have been going for three decades already, are now up for divestiture, precisely because the returns over the years from these ventures have been far from encouraging.

Of the various approaches to the provision of higher education, increased state support would seem, under present circumstances, to be most viable. The like between state investment in higher education and high rate of national development, amply demonstrated by examples around the world, is argument enough for further state support. Individuals and business houses might also be encouraged by appropriate tax reliefs to supplement government support for education.

After long periods of military rule, Ghana has embarked once more on democratic governance under the constitution of the Fourth Republic, inaugurated in January 1993. Successfully concluded since December 1996, presidential elections and elections to the Second Parliament or the Fourth Republic are pointers to enduring stability.

Earlier uneasiness about the role of the private sector in the delivery of goods and services to campuses has abated somewhat. Campuses are now beginning to warm up to private sector initiatives, including the acquisition of university lands for building fuel dumps. Rent advances received from some leasehold arrangements have been applied to enhance facilities on the campus of the University of Ghana. To increase on-campus accommodation, ideas canvassed to date extend to allowing private sector investments in student hostels, to be paid for by students from maintenance loans provided by SSNIT.

It is an encouraging sign that education reform programme, initiated in 1987 to make education at all levels accessible, remains on course. It is all the more encouraging, now that more diversified sources of funding are in prospect.

Other Institutions of Higher Education

Besides universities and university colleges, the country's polytechnics - at present 6 in number, but to be extended to 10 (1 for each region) - are now seen as constituting one more strand of higher education. In 1996 total enrolments stood at 12, 000. Programmes offered are to lead to the equivalent of the UK's Higher National Diploma (HND), on the basis of which the possibility for transfer to a university for a degree course is one of the advantages canvassed for bringing all post secondary institutions, under one umbrella.

The Universities Rationalisation Committee also envisaged for every region a regional college of applied arts and sciences, comprising those post-secondary institutions offering training in health-care delivery, teaching and agriculture, to be yet one more strand of higher education.

While the necessary steps to transform the polytechnics to their new role have been taken, movement on the regional colleges has been slow. All the institution types seen as belonging to higher education are, however, represented at the National Council for Tertiary Education.

Other national efforts at the post secondary level include training in business, secretaryship and accounting at the Institute of Professional Studies in Accra, originally a private school, but long integrated into the Ghana Education Service. The Institute of Journalism, the National Film and Television Institute, the Maritime Academy and the Military Academy also offer programmes of appeal to students who have completed secondary school. Located next door to the law courts in Accra, the Ghana Law School provides training for university graduates to qualify to be called to the bar; for persons whose degree is in law the training takes 2 years, for others 3 years.

Postgraduate training for management careers in the public service is available at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, established since 1969, which, though not formally listed as a university, has all the internal features of a university and indeed-under PNDC Law 313 of January 5, 1993 - may now, under a co-operative arrangement with the University of Ghana, offer courses of study leading to master's and doctorate degrees of the University of Ghana.

The Armed Forces of Ghana also run a Staff College whose programme are similar to graduate studies in the universities.

From the private sector various professional bodies, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Institute of Bankers and the Institute of Marketing, are beginning to sponsor training programmes for school leavers interested in those professions.

From enquiries recently come to attention, the prospects of a private university are not far off.


Among other sources, additional or detailed information on Ghana's universities may be obtained from the following:

Calendars and vice-chancellors' annual reports of the Universities/university college. Busia, Prof. K. A. Report on delimitation of functions among universities. 1996.

Commission on Higher Education in the Colonies. Report. June 1945. Chairman: Hon: Mr Justice Asquith.

Commission on Higher Education in West Arica. Report. June 1945. Chairman: Rt Hon Walter Eliot.

Dzobo, Rev Dr N K (chairman). The new structure and content of education for Ghana. June 1973.

Education Review Committee. Report. July 1967. Chairman: Prof. A A Kwapong.

Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. Law. 1993-PNDC Law 318. 5 March 1993.

International Commission on University Education. Report. January 1946. Chairman: Hon Kojo Botsio.

Ministry of Education. Towards Learning for all:basic education to the year 2000. (Education Sector Paper as a follow-up to the National Progrmme of Action). March 1994.

Universities Rationalisation Committee. Final Report. January 1988. Chairman: Mrs Esi Sutherland Addy, Deputy Secretary for higher education.


This page was last updated: 17 April 1998