The Degree Rush (I) – By Kwame Gyan

Back in February the National Accreditation Board showed us that they had the teeth to bite. They had ordered authorities of the Central University College to withdraw 695 unqualified students who were admitted by the Central University College (CUC) to pursue various degree programmes in the current academic year.

The students at the Central University College did not obtain grade C6 or less in one, two or all three of the core subjects of Mathematics, English and Integrated Science or Social Studies in the WASSCE. And just last week, news reports had it that the NAB has again ordered the Methodist University College Ghana (MUCG), to withdraw 1,465 unqualified students it has admitted to various degree programmes by the end of April, this year.

The reports said the action follows an audit inspection conducted by the NAB at the university which found out that some of the students who were at various levels were admitted with only proficiency certificates in Computer Studies and other courses. It goes on to say that others had not attained grade C6 or less in one, two or all three of the core subjects such as Mathematics, English and Integrated Science or Social Studies in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The NAB is undertaking more audits and my guess is that a lot more ‘students’ are going to be ‘dismissed’ from a lot more private universities. There is a common belief among people in school that truthfully, most people who were unable to gain admission to the public universities find their way into the private universities. Indeed the only stage in the educational setup where being in a private institution was what young people say was a ‘flex’ is being in a private junior high school.

At that level those in ‘cyto’ feel they are lower in standards and everything else compared to their folks in the private ones. But when you move to the secondary school the schools everyone wants to be in are PRESEC, Achimota, Wesley Girls’ High School, Holy Child, Adisco, St. Augustines, Aburi Girls, St. Roses and the like. These are the ‘cytos’ of the secondary school but they are the most sought after. Move on to the universities and it is a similar story. Perhaps the only ‘unusual’ private university we can exclude is Ashesi. Aside that one, most students would rather be at Legon or Tech or Cape. Of course for reasons of self-esteem you will hear some say ‘I came to this university by choice; I didn’t want to go to Legon’. And that is a lie.

Government’s subsidy of the public universities means that no matter what, the fees and accommodation rates are cheaper. Then again, Legon and the other public universities have a certain stature and recognition globally (in fact most private universities do not even award their own certifications; they award that of their affiliated universities, i.e. the Legons, Techs and Capes). In fact, quite a number of the teachers in the private universities are full time lecturers in the public universities. So why will you turn these down for the private universities?

The admission requirements for the public universities are often stricter and it sees a lot of qualified folks fall behind the cut-off points largely because of the unavailability of space. On the other hand the private universities push theirs so close to the cut-off point of 24 and what that means is that a lot of people who will normally not make it into our traditional universities get a chance here. The sad case which the NAB audit has revealed (and which most of us have always known) is that almost all the private universities pay more attention to ‘who can afford our fees’ rather than who qualifies to be here. This is what has encouraged them to admit students who have no business being in a university to do so.

I know there is talk about how our educational system’s structure does not do justice to some students and all. I am not in a position to discuss that now. What I do know is that no university has the right to admit students who have failed the qualifying criteria into universities. I even think MUCG and CUC and those to be ‘caught’ in the next few weeks should be punished for glaringly and intentionally admitting students they know they should not admit. Of course the students were also stupid in gleefully ‘allowing themselves to be admitted’ when they knew that had papers to re-write.

Let’s continue with this next week, folks.

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