Dear Honourable Minister Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh:
Re: The Accreditation Challenges in Transnational Educational Ecology: The Ghanaian Experience
We wish to congratulate you on your appointment as the Minister of Education for the Republic of Ghana. We hope your appointment infuses new perspectives and strategies into the administration of education in Ghana, especially in higher education.
As you may be aware of, the above reference was a report submitted to the Ghana Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, for onward transmission to the out gone Minister of Education, Prof Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang. The report and its accompaniments were duly received and acknowledge by the Minister.
The report generated a wide-ranging public debate with regard to institutional accreditation, conferment and award of higher education degrees, particularly doctoral degrees, and the credibility of the research endeavor as part of the tenure requirement for lecturers and professors in Ghanaian universities.
As part of that ongoing debate, we took the time to expatiate on the academic publishing process and also exposed what has become known as predatory journals in the academy. We provided examples of what other countries are doing to curtail the pervasive intrusion of predatory journals in knowledge production and consumption.
Of particular interest is the steps taken by the South African Government, through its Department of Higher Education and Training, to give approval or accreditation to journals they consider worthy to be considered as producing credible, valid, and reliable knowledge (Please follow the link here to approved journals http://www0.sun.ac.za/research/assets/files/DHET%20Local%20journals%202016(1).pdf).
The said report placed the searchlight squarely on some unaccredited institutions, including one by name the Swiss Management Center (SMC), which is in the business of awarding questionable double doctoral academic degrees to Ghanaians who, then, obtain academic positions with these questionable qualifications in Ghanaian universities to the detriment of students.
Two important points of interest here. First, the so-called SMC had threatened legal action against us for exposing its questionable practices but has failed to do so since August 1, 2016, when the report went public. Second, the SMC has failed to meet the accreditation requirements of its home government through the Swiss Accreditation Council (SAC) until now.
The debate has also exposed many questionable academic practices at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA). First is the curious question of how professors at UPSA are promoted from one rank to another. The peculiar case of (Prof.) Abednego Feehi Okoe Amartey has been extensively discussed and written about (Please follow the link to this article http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/On-the-Appointment-of-Prof-Amartey-to-the-position-of-Vice-Chancellor-of-UPSA-467720).
In spite of the overwhelming evidence produced to help the UPSA Governing Council and its outgone Vice Chancellor Joshua Alabi, the Ghana National Accreditation Board (NAB), and the Minister of Education, to make decisions in the interest of Ghanaian students and the nation, we are very much aware of the political undertones that made it impossible for the aforementioned individuals and institutions to act decisively to cleanup UPSA and other institutions that are harboring some of these individuals.
Instead of cooperation from these individuals and institutions, we were met with attempts at each stage of the debate to malign and undercut our credibility. An example was during the 2016 matriculation ceremony of UPSA. At that ceremony, Joshua Alabi lampooned issues in question, especially the question regarding the credibility of research publications engaged in by his faculty.
According to Alabi, in apparent reference to us, “so we hear people talk about UPSA lecturers and research. Research, yes! There is an element of research in what we do, but that is not what we are into, ours is a purely technical university” (Please follow the link http://therepublicnewsonline.com/2016/10/24/upsa-vice-chancellor-replies-critics/).
The diversionary strategy should be noted here. Ours was not a question of whether UPSA is mainly a research institution, technical institution, or a teaching university. Our concern was about the credibility of journals in which UPSA professors publish their work.
We provided substantial evidence to educate both the general public, the UPSA and its Governing Council, and the Ministry of Education on the modus operandi of predatory journals and provided a specific case in UPSA, where 70 percent of the total publication of a fulltime professor was churned out in predatory journals manned by uneducated crooks in corner shops in India and other parts of the world (Please follow the link to the article https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2016/10/10/162700/).
Instead of responding to the substantive issue, Alabi diverted the attention of his unsuspecting audience as though the question was about whether the UPSA was a teaching or research institution. Alabi forgets that the claim that the UPSA is not a research institution, only triggers the question of whether his faculty receives research allowances from the Ghana Government. If UPSA faculty does, then what do they use such allowances for? To pay some crooks in some corner shops in India to churn out chaff?
Other examples are: NAB’s attack on us in the Daily Graphic in October 2016. Also, a response from a so-called legal officer of NAB to a lead we provided to NAB to investigate Nana (Dr.) Appiagyei Dankawoso who claims to be a doctor and is on boards of some public institutions.
In that response, the so-called legal officer pointed out that “the board does not take directives from individuals but its mother ministry and persons or bodies with appropriate authority. In addition, the Board would have appreciated it, if you had attached your findings” (Please follow the link to the lead provided to the NAB http://www.juabenruralbank.com/board/64-nana-dr-appiagyei-dankawoso-i).
With regard to the NAB, the question is whether its so-called legal officer appreciates the role of whistleblowers in the political discourse of democratic nations, including Ghana.
Further, during a recent induction service organized for Amartey at UPSA, the claim to double doctoral degrees has been altered. In a news report announcing the appointment of Abednego Feehi Okoe Amartey by the Daily Graphic on August 30, 2016, the Daily Graphic in paragraph six of that reportage announced Amartey “holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Business Administration from Universidad Central de Nicaragua and a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) from the Swiss Management Center” (Please follow the link here http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/prof-okoe-amartey-appointed-upsa-v-c.html).
Contrary to the claim to the double doctoral degree, during his questionable induction, the claim was dropped. In this latest report, especially, after realizing the ridiculous claims have only created a laughing stock out of the individuals in question, the message is now he “holds a PhD in Business Administration from the SMC University of Switzerland” (Please follow the link here http://www.ghananewsagency.org/education/professor-amartey-inducted-as-second-vice-chancellor-of-upsa-111778).
One important aspect of policy formulation and implementation is the consistency of policy. If the policy is that one can acquire academic awards from unaccredited institutions, go on to churn out publications in journals operated by crooks in corner shops in India and then progress rapidly to become a professor and a Vice Chancellor, we think the policy must be made clear to all Ghanaians, so that those who choose the academic path can find these easy ways to move to the top as quickly as possible.
We are also aware that Ghanaian universities, of which UPSA is a part, as a result of its accreditation status, require doctoral degrees from their professors. While there are many Ghanaians with a PhD who want to work with UPSA, Alabi retains unqualified individuals including those with questionable qualifications in UPSA and ran the institution as if it was his bona fide property.
We believe that the high offices of the Vice Chancellor is an office that carries a lot of weight within the academy and beyond. For that reason, both the office and its occupier must radiate with the level of credibility that such an office requires within the academy and beyond. We are of the view that academic practices under Alabi had undermined the credibility of the institution and its high office of Vice Chancellor. To this end, we are urging you, the Minister of Education, to take immediate steps to address the UPSA issue in particular and the issues we raised in our report generally.
We would also appeal to your office to review and implement the recommendations contained in the report. We will make ourselves, our expertise and services available to you and your ministry as needed. We believe strongly that you have the capacity to reform higher education in Ghana by providing structures for the evaluation of awards and publications in higher education in Ghana. It is an urgent need that cannot be delayed any further.
Thanks for your attention in anticipation of your consideration and action.
Prosper Yao Tsikata, PhD
Assistant Professor of Communication
A. Kobla Dotse, PhD.
Director, Chemical Research & Development