Private Universities need to focus on relevance, agility and excellence to ensure that their institutions adapt and succeed in the education marketplace.
Professor Ato Essuman, Dean, School of Research and Graduate Studies and Professional development, Methodist University Ghana (MUG), said if they were to prosper and be successful they must be relevant to the societies in which they exist.
Prof Essuman made these remarks when he delivered a public lecture organised by the MUG on the topic, “Ghana’s Private Universities in Crises: Were They Founded as a Necessary Risk or a Public Relation Gimmick? Time To Rethink,” in Accra
“They should assert their importance as critical builders of knowledge and human capital,” he said.
The Dean said whether they were seeking solutions to global conflict, or developing their understanding of literature, they must be relevant and be willing to engage with society to show how that was the case.
“True relevance can mean substantial change for some – more flexible models, mixed-mode pedagogy, learning while earning and block study,” he added.
He said Universities had traditionally been slow to respond to external influences; ‘slow but sure’ has often been the motive but the pace of externally driven change would surely only increase.
He said those institutions that were agile would have the ability to adapt continuously to be the most successful.
“That may mean changing some deep-rooted ways of working as Private Universities, and build the
ability to be ahead of the game rather than responding after the event.
Prof Essuman said excellence in the development of knowledge and inspiration of learners was critical for all, such that Private Universities could not prosper if they were not good at what they do.
“In the new world, being excellent across all academic and professional operations will be crucial, good enough will not do,” he added.
He said to survive in the education marketplace, Private Universities must become more ‘business-like’, while at the same time focusing on what they were good at and emphasising the very things that make them different.
Prof. Essuman said few Private Tertiary Institutions pay attention to planning to enable leadership to give strategic direction to the institution.
Out of 15 institutions sampled, only four had strategic plans which had not lapsed and only two out of the four whose plan had not lapsed, got
serious with its implementation and monitoring.
He said many acknowledged their importance, but were demotivated by the inadequate resources to fund it.
“The fact is, it is actually the lack of resources that a preparation of a strategic plan should be a priority,” he added.
He said the strategic plan helped the organization to be proactive rather than reactive, instilled a shared sense of responsibility and increased operational efficiency among leadership.
The Dean said the lack of it presented chaos due to the ad hoc nature of decision-making and actions based only on leadership experience and discretion and indiscretion.
He said it was important for Private Universities to focus on soft skills in the curriculum and align their educational offerings with in-demand skills.
The Dean said the hard skills that were in demand
change frequently in the rapidly changing world, but soft skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills could prove to be invaluable in the eyes of employers.
“Designing well-rounded curricula that balance out disciplinary depth by encompassing these skills will give students an edge beyond the ivory tower,” he added.
He said Universities must ensure that what they were offering to students was relevant to industry.