The leadership of University Lecturers Associations from across the West African Sub-region have called on governments, civil society and other stakeholders to recognize the importance of academic freedoms in enhancing the quality of higher education.
They said it was important for governments and stakeholders to recognize academic freedom within higher institutions of learning, not as a mere paper work as the knowledge produced by the universities were critical for the development of the human resource of the countries.
Their argument was that the constant external interference creates serious challenges for universities and affecting their outputs often negatively.
Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana, at a two-day international workshop on academic freedom for leaders of University Teachers Associations in West Africa, said there was the need to ascertain the real state of the situation of these higher institutions across the globe.
He said globally countries have enshrined such freedoms in their national constitutions, but the fullness of their implementation cannot be guaranteed, judging from the fact that most universities were fully State funded, and their leadership appointed by the government.
He said there has been major violations of academic freedoms within the universities with respect to the programmes they offer, safety of the tenure of work of lecturers, self-checks against influences of the industrial sector to impose their research topics, as well as students’ rights to healthy exchange of knowledge with their tutors.
This, he said, was so because governments often exert too much pressure on academia for them to do what they want, leading to a major interference in the effective operations of Universities.
Dr Appiagyei-Atua said the findings of the study conducted would serve as an eye opener and a guide to awaken the consciousness of stakeholders on the existing challenges faced by universities around the world in order to find lasting solutions to them.
He said the workshop would create the platform for strengthening collaborations and networking among the various University teachers’ Association in the Sub-region, while the University of Ghana, sets up an international desk to coordinate these collaborations.
The University of Ghana would collaborate with the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR Network) to address the issues of university lecturers and provide safety grounds for members who face various threats in their respective countries.
Professor Samuel Offei, the Pro-Vice Chancellor in Charge of Academic and Student Affairs of the University of Ghana, commended the University’s School of Law and the SAR Network, for their collaborative efforts.