Fee paying at public universities is constitutional
… Supreme Court declares
By Ivy Benson
The Supreme Court, by a unanimous decision, has declared that the full fee- paying policy adopted by public universities was justified and constitutional, as the policy has helped in providing higher education for more qualified students in the country.
The decision followed an application filed by the Federation of Youth Associations of Ghana (FEDYAG) against the public universities and the Attorney-General, seeking a declaration that the full fee-paying policy of Ghanaian public universities was unconstitutional, and that the offer of admission to full fee-paying students amounted to discrimination under the Constitution.
The court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, therefore, dismissed the application, noting that the fee-paying policy was not discriminatory, but had been applied in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution, and the law establishing the policy.
The rest of the panel members include Justices Sophia Akufo, Allan Brobbey, Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Anin Yeboah, Sule Gbadegbe and Joyce Akoto Bamfo.
According to the court, the institution of the policy was a result of the fact that the government could not singlehandedly provide free university education, since it comes with a great deal of cost, adding that this policy is used all over the world.
The court further cited statistics supplied by the public universities, which defeated the plaintiff’s claim that spaces for non-fee paying students had been reduced in favour of full fee-paying students.
FEDYAG issued a writ against the public universities before the court, claiming that public universities “sell” admissions based on economic status and not intellectual abilities, in breach of Articles 17, 25, and 38 of the Constitution, because tertiary education is to be made “progressively free.”
The plaintiff, therefore, requested the court to interpret these articles, and declare the full fee-paying policy unconstitutional.
In his argument, Mr. Ace Ankomah, counsel for the public universities, noted that admissions are generally based on the amount of government subvention they receive each year, adding that it was after the quota determined by the subventions had been determined that vacancies are made available to foreign students, Ghanaian nationals resident abroad, and Ghanaian students who have qualified, but did not benefit from the subvention.
They also argued that although full fee-paying students constitute less than 10% of student intake, it makes up to over 28% of the universities’ income, and that this goes to support non-fee paying students, and provide scholarships to brilliant students from deprived schools.
The court indicated that the plaintiffs only made bare assertions, but failed to corroborate their claim, stressing that the full fee-paying option was not discriminatory, since normal admissions were not affected.
The court noted that although Article 25 of the Constitution demands equal opportunities for educational advancement, it also recognises limitations that are based on students’ capacities and available educational facilities, noting that the ultimate purpose of Article 25 was free education by gradual introduction, and that under Article 38, education objectives could only be implemented by “the availability of resources.”
Short URL: http://thechronicle.com.gh/?p=30553