The long-held view that academia lacks the capacity to provide homemade solutions to industry’s problems is misconceived, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Academic Student Affairs, University of Ghana (UG), Prof. Samuel Kwame Offei has said, stating that institutions like the UG are in a position to contribute to the country’s industrial transformation.
“Certainly, we have the expertise; what is lacking is the engagement with industry, policymakers and those who make decisions in proffering solutions. So, if we can collaborate closely we will be able to proffer Ghanaian solutions to Ghanaian problems,” he observed.
Prof. Offei spoke to the B&FT in Accra during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of Ghana and Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), to promote exchange programmes and other research projects.
While conceding that a lot has been done on how the two sides can collaborate better, he said the University of Ghana has initiated a number of steps to narrow the gulf between what happens in the classroom and the world of work. In this regard, he revealed that the university has set up a new entity, the Institute of Science and Technology, specifically to foster closer working ties with industry.
“One of its main purposes is to be able to engage industry in the various areas in which we have programmes and expertise, so that in most of lectures or training we will be able to bring in industry to enhance the practical experience of our students,” he added.
Although the institute has been around for about five years, he said it only started to garner traction in recent times and, so far, it is making active engagements with industry.
Over the last few years the country’s educational system has come under intense criticism, due to the type of programmes run by the various institutions of higher learning and the calibre of graduates they churn out.
While some experts hold the view that the current educational establishment does not support productivity – because universities in the country are churning out graduates from the same programme models, which creates a surplus society – others believe that the quality of training given is simply not up to standard.
For instance, employers have often complained that graduates do not have the requisite skills for the job market, even as graduate unemployment is on the ascendancy.
Asked why the gap between these two economically interlinked sides has persisted for so long, Prof. Offei said: “I think that academia is waiting for industry and industry is waiting for academia, and it is creating a lacuna. But now, what we are saying is ‘look, we as a university are making strenuous efforts to bridge this gap and bring industry into the university’.”
He added: “Academia is very open and willing to contribute to the development of solutions for the problems we have”.
Signing of MoU
The agreement between the two institutions is to help promote research and consultancy services, internship placements for students, educational tours for faculty and students, and joint public fora to educate the public on research findings.
Professor Offei and Professor Sandow M. Yidana, Dean-College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana, signed on behalf of the university while Professor Alex Dodoo, Director General-GSA, signed for the Authority.
Prof. Offei said the collaboration was one of the strategic priorities of the university to create a vibrant intellectual climate that stimulates relevant cutting-edge research and community engagement. “This is certainly a way of bridging the gap between industry and academia. As an institution we are working hard, making strenuous efforts to able to bridge the gap,” he said.
He was optimistic that the MoU will broaden the scope of collaboration for students to have internships during their period of study, and thus gain hands-on experience in the field.
On his part, Prof. Dodoo said with the collaboration there will be a significant increase in the number of students and faculty working with industry to advance the frontiers of research.
He said the country has battled with the requisite research tools to bridge the gap between academia and industry, stressing that the collaboration will build synergies in addressing the challenges.
Prof. Dodoo added the MoU will enable students to conduct their Doctor of Philosophy course with the Authority by identifying relevant problem-solving issues affecting the country.