Authorities of private universities in the country say non-state tertiary institutions are struggling to survive due to unfair regulation, undue competition from public universities, and other challenges.
They have, therefore, appealed to the government to create an enabling environment for them to complement the state in the delivery of quality tertiary education to the citizenry.
Comprising founders, vice-chancellors, and other management staff, they were part of a panel at a conference on private University Education in West Africa/ awards held on Wednesday in Accra.
Organised by the West Africa International Press Limited, it was on the theme “Is the survival of private university education in West Africa under threat? – Ghana as a case study.”
The conference created a platform for educationists to deliberate on the challenges facing private universities while personalities and individuals were awarded for their meritorious services in their respective fields.
The founder and Chancellor of the Wisconsin University College, Dr Paul Fynn, said the abolishment of the affiliation system was rushed, thereby putting pressure on the private universities to meet new requirements for charter.
“It is totally and extremely wrong to insist on that decision. They should allow public universities to train more professionals to handle the private universities otherwise you are watering down the educational system”, he said.
Dr Fynn said they depended on bank loans, contrary to the view that they were making gains. He also alleged that approval of programmes for them went through arduous processes, unlike public universities.
He, therefore, called for a bigger stakeholder engagement on the fate of private universities.
The President of All Nations University, Prof. Samuel Donkor said, the private universities were under serious threat, citing how they did not enjoy some support given to public universities, for instance, research funds.
He said the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), which regulates tertiary institutions, appeared to have been set up mainly to frustrate private universities given that the public universities were treated differently.
“It is as if it is an agenda to slow down the development of private universities. In fact, some of them have collapsed, others are on life support”, he said and called for equity and fairness in their application of rules.
On the issue of competition, he said, the public universities were now running free paying courses, matured entry models, and other programmes, thereby denying the private universities their targeted prospective students.
For his part, the Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Pentecost University, Apostle Dr Emmanuel Kwesi Anim stated there was the need for challenges facing private universities to be addressed because of the crucial role they played in education.
The Deputy Director of the GTEC, Dr Ahmed Jinapor, said the 86 accredited private universities in the country had 11 per cent (52,112) of the total student population in the country and that the Commission and the Sector ministry were taking steps to address their challenges.
Noting that private education in the country was not under threat, but robust, he advised them to create a niche for themselves in unique areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to attract more students as well as prepare them for the thriving technology market.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR