Free SHS and the predicted gain for private tertiary institutions (3)

Let us recap quickly the highlights in parts one (1) and two (2) of this series. In part 1, I traced the origins of education in Ghana to the pioneered literary works of the Basel Missionaries dated 1863. I also pointed to Article 25(1) of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution which stipulates the promotion of free basic education and ‘progressively free’ tertiary education.

The fact that Ghana has extended its Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education from nine (9) years to twelve (12) years and its impact on tertiary education is the reason for this series of articles. In part 2, I analysed the performance statistics of entry figures of students who sat the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) from 2011 – 2017 and also consider enrolment in private universities from 2015 – 2017.

In this final part of the series, I will take an analytical view of some reasons that may have accounted for fall in enrolment in private tertiary institutions, take a brief detour into calculation for expected increase into tertiary institutions from the increased enrolment in Free SHS. I will also consider some factors that can inure to the benefits of private tertiary institutions by increasing enrolment.

  1. Some reasons that may have accounted for the decline in enrolment in private tertiary institutions are: 
  1. Non-availability of senior faculty in proportion to students ration – it is a fact and an experiential knowledge that there is low employment and/or the non-availability of many senior members of faculty in many private universities. It is common to see some private universities without a professor.

Generally, Ghana lacks the number of professors required for its growing universities. Majority of the few professors available are in the public universities. Why the private universities cannot attract them may range from issues of employee compensation for their skill, non-guarantee of longevity of private universities, facilities for research, teaching and learning, and issues of non-compliance of corporate governance which tends to impede academic freedom (employees are often at the mercies of the owner).

  1. High cost of school fees – comparatively, private tertiary education is more expensive than public tertiary education. A simple reason usually accounted for this is the availability of government subvention to public tertiary institutions as opposed to private tertiary institutions whose source of income is mainly through enrolment.
  • Expansion of sessions by public universities – perhaps the most probable reason that may have accounted for the low enrolment in private universities are the avalanche of sessions run by public universities. Notable among these sessions are distance and sandwich programmes.
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The distance and sandwich programmes run by the public tertiary institutions are purely unfair practices to private tertiary institutions. These sessions can be attributed highly to revenue generation motives by public tertiary institutions. Such economic motives must be discouraged in building quality in tertiary education. I will write a detailed study on this unfair practice by public tertiary institutions in Ghana.

  1. Decline in foreign students enrolment – private tertiary institutions have in the past enjoyed higher enrolment of international students mainly from Nigeria. A cursive looks into many campuses and discussions with students in private tertiary institutions shows that the influx of students from Nigeria into Ghana’s private tertiary institutions has declined enormously.

The immediate reasons they attributed to this phenomenon was mainly the economic downturn in Nigeria to fund international education and the establishment of more foreign universities which has increased enrolment in Nigeria.

  1. Calculations for expected increase into tertiary institutions from the increased enrolment in Free SHS

Table 1: shows the total number of students in all tertiary institutions in Ghana in 2015/2016 academic year

Category of Institutions Number of Institutions Students Population % of students Population
Public Universities 10 219,596 53.0
Public Technical Universities / Polytechnics 10 52,765 13.0
Public Colleges of Education 40 41,984 10.0
Public Specialised Institutions 7 13,278 3.0
Public Nurses Training Colleges 19 13,601 3.0
Private Universities / University Colleges 72 71,327 17.0
Private Colleges of Education 7 3,534 0.8
Private Nurses Training Colleges 10 820 0.2
Colleges of Agriculture 1 163 0.04
Total 176 417,058 100.0

Source: Author’s fieldwork, 2018

From the table above, tertiary institutions in Ghana enrolled 417,058 in 2015/2018. Granted that this number has increased marginally to 420,000 by 2017/2018 academic year, the Free SHS is expected to further increase the number.

If 40% of the 361, 322 enrolled in the Free SHS qualify for tertiary institutions, plus those who will be seeking admission into tertiary institutions same year with qualifications other than WASSCE will be around 2%.

If the anticipated increase in enrolment into Free SHS remains at 6%, it is expected that by 2020/2021, the Free SHS would have enrolled 1,580,638. From this increasing numbers, private universities in Ghana, stands a good position to enroll more students than their current numbers. However, it must be said that the expected increase in enrolment will not come by chance if strategic decisions and methodological steps are not take in preparedness for the high enrolment.

  1. Some factors that can inure to the benefits of private tertiary institutions in preparation to increasing enrolment
  1. Expansion in infrastructure – in anticipation for increase in enrolment, there is the need for private tertiary institutions to increase infrastructure. I mean necessary infrastructure for teaching and learning. If they can expand campus based accommodation that will also improve intensity in studying and community life.
  1. Competitive fee charges – they may have to consider the government waiver of tax to compensate for competitive fee charges. They will have to move from over profiteering motives and consider the economic tenant of education which is a public good.
  • Expansion in course – they have to venture into courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The industrilaisation agenda of Ghana’s economy must inspire the courses offered at its tertiary institutions that seek to build the highest level of its human resource capital.
  1. Employment of quality staff – private tertiary institutions must invest more in their existing staff while they seek to employ more qualified staff.
  1. Employee compensation – the poor employee compensation in many private tertiary institutions in Ghana will not help their expectation in being attractive to quality staff employment. A quality staff will make better student.
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While private universities position themselves to do the business of higher education, government must take steps to prevent the public universities from over stretching their boundaries and diluting quality for economic gains. Equal measure of quality of faculty and infrastructure must be ensured in all the various distance and sandwich programmes centres.

The standard for measuring educational quality must be even and not seen to be favouring one party against the other else we will be encouraging educational segregation which smacks of respects and loss of investment for private tertiary eduprenuers. Private tertiary education must be encouraged to flourish in totality.

The Free SHS will be the good thing yet to happen to private tertiary institutions if only they are positioned appropriately. Whichever way it is, the Free SHS will increase the human resource base at the tertiary institution level by which private tertiary institutions are expected to be the most beneficiaries.

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