The University of Ghana (UG), Legon, the premier public tertiary institution in Ghana, has been accredited for only 132 programmes, out of the total 220 courses it currently offers.
The situation of unaccredited programmes also pertains at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), which runs over 500 programmes, but only 140 have been accredited.
In the light of this development, the members of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Auditor-General dread reputational damages to these institutions and graduates studying for degrees from them, though the courses offered were unlicensed.
The rather “worrying” incidence, as described, was interrogated at the PAC sitting on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, when the UG and KNUST took their turns to appear before the committee to answer irregularities cited the 2021 Report of the Auditor-General on the public accounts of Ghana, of public boards, corporations and other statutory institutions for the financial year ended December 31, 2021.
The Committee sounded troubled, considering that the universities, which were represented separately by their respective Vice Chancellors, Registrars, Directors of Finance and other officials, could only respond that processes had begun to rectify the anomaly.
Rockson-Nelson Defeamakpor, a Member of the PAC, said: “We are not taking this matter lightly. Students are paying fees for it, and are being examined for it. It cannot be said that students go through this and end up with certificates that are questionable.”
Section 8(3) of the National Accreditation Board Act, 2007 (Act 744), the law that backs the A-G on the issue, states: “An institution shall not operate or run a programme without accreditation.”
Also, Section 36 of the Education Regulatory Bodies Act, 2020 (Act 1023), provides that a person who runs or advertises a tertiary education programme that is not accredited commits an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of not less than ten thousand penalty units, and not more than twenty thousand penalty units, or a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years, and not more than twenty years, or to both.
The anomaly regarding the UG was captured in Paragraph 1301 of the report, which was referred to by the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Samuel Atta Mills.
According to what he cited from the report, the UG advertised 374 programmes that had their accreditation expired or required re-accreditation at the time of the audit.
The report said that, as of December 31, 2020, the UG had 14 diploma courses, 80 undergraduate, 213 postgraduate and 67 PhD programmes unaccredited.
In the response of the management to the audit queries, the UG said two diplomas, five undergrads, 21 postgraduates and eight PhDs, making 36 programmes, had expired as of December 31, 2020.
Also under review were six diplomas, eight undergrads, 16 postgraduates and five PhDs for a total of 35 programmes.
The school had also sent an application to the Regulator, the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), to accredit five undergrads, 13 postgraduates and one PhDs, making it a total of 19.
There were re-accreditations for one diploma, 25 undergrads, 56 postgraduates and 21 PhDs, making it 103 programmes ongoing.
The VC Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo responded that since the audit, the majority of the programmes “are no longer on offer,” adding that 60 of the 80 undergrad programmes have fully been licensed.
However, at the time of the audit, the UG was offering those courses, and a year later, the university was again cited for the same issue, as the committee reminded them.
According to the VC, currently, the university offers 220 programmes, and measures were in place to ensure the “proper” accreditation of all the courses. But, out of the total, 132 were fully licensed at all levels.
When the Chairman of the Committee asked the VC whether the university examined students in the unaccredited programmes at the end of the year, she answered in the affirmative.
“So, it means that there is a possibility that a programme that has no accreditation can have a certificate issued for that. Is that the case?” the Chairman asked.
“Mr. Chairman, given the system that has been put in place, if there is any programme like that, by the time [the] students are graduating, they would have had accreditation,” the VC answered.
“I have a feeling that there are programmes you do not have accreditation for, but have issued certificates. I may be right or wrong, but that’s the feeling I have,” the Chairman stated again, but the VC said: “That could be in the past, but not currently.”
Paragraph 1083 of the A-G Report referred to details of the unaccredited programmes being offered by KNUST, as raised by the Committee.
The auditors cited the university at the time, as running 360 programmes by the Colleges and Institutions of the University, but only 61 had been accredited.
The Report further said that 117 and 73 had been sent to the National Accreditation Board for accreditation and re-accreditation respectively, with 109 yet to be sent for accreditation.
In their response at the Committee hearing, the Vice Chancellor, Rita Akosua Dickosn, said the management had taken steps to deal with the issue and that those certificates the auditors did not see, “we have shared even more than that with them.”
She told the committee that the University now offers over 500 programmes, of which over 140 are accredited, and the rest are at various stages of accreditation.
Though the Auditors attributed the anomaly to management’s “lack of pro-activeness,” the VC blamed the long accreditation process, which takes about two years.
The VC said after the audit queries that KNUST had developed technology to help them track the accreditation status of their programmes.
At the moment, programmes accreditation spans five years before re-accreditation. A member of the committee proposed a 10-year period, which the officials of KNUST gladly welcomed.