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Ongoing closures threaten viability of private universities

Home | Opinion | S.I.S 18th January, 2023

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The future of the private universities in Ghana looks gloomy and their existence will be jeopardised if the closures of the institutions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic continue beyond June this year, the president of the Council of Independent Universities, Daniel Obeng-Ofori, has told University World News.

“The coronavirus has affected the financial situation of private universities in the country, with some not able to pay salaries for March and April because most students left the campuses with about 50% of unpaid fees following the closure of institutions due to the pandemic,” Obeng-Ofori, who is also the vice-chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana (CUCG), said in an email exchange.

“The universities cannot hold it anymore should the closure of schools go beyond June 2020,” he said, adding that “students are still owing the universities for services rendered to them, which is about 40% to 50% of their fees”.

The CUCG, for instance, has not yet reported any lay-offs of staff and faculty, but this is likely to change should the pandemic persist for a longer period, due to the unpaid fees, he said.

“This already poses a challenge for us in the effective management of the institutions since we are having challenges paying salaries and other expenses that fall due,” Obeng-Ofori said.

He said private universities in Ghana already have cash flow issues due to reduced admission numbers. The Ministry of Education is yet to come up with any plans to assist them.

“The Ministry of Education has not given any assistance in any form to private universities,” Obeng-Ofori said, adding that the Council of Independent Universities had applied to government for financial assistance and was hopeful that the response would be favourable.

On how they are responding to academic work in the wake of the pandemic, he said that even before COVID-19 the independent universities had put in place systems for e-learning. “The percentage of its use was about 20%-50% to help teaching and learning but the current pandemic has resulted in a 100% use as a substitute for face-to-face lectures.”

Obeng-Ofori said online teaching and learning started as soon as the universities were closed. Following this, lecturers sent their teaching notes, PowerPoint slides and other materials to students through emails, WhatsApp platforms and Google Classroom.

“Some of the universities have also adopted the Moodle learning management system in promoting teaching and learning. The capabilities of this system include provision of resources and teaching materials online, administration of assignments and tests as well as live communication with students via chat interfaces,” he said.

Obeng-Ofori said major complaints of some of the students had been a lack of internet access or power, the cost of data, and a lack of laptops to follow up on teaching that has gone online.

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