Every year, mainly middle class students from Africa head off in droves to the United Kingdom and the United States to get a world class education.
But Britain’s Lancaster University and its partner, Trans National Education (TNE) Ghana Limited, are hoping to change this. They are opening a branch of Lancaster University in Ghana this month – the first of its kind in West Africa.
The campus will be developed into a major teaching and research university of international standing and will be a welcome addition to the country’s education system. Although in some regards Ghana is considered to be one of the best education hubs in West Africa, many academics describe pre-tertiary education at government schools as being in crisis.
Some of the reasons given are poor teaching and not enough teachers. Unions estimate that more than 30,000 teachers have abandoned their posts in recent years for greener pastures.
The Accra campus, known as Lancaster University Ghana, hopes to attract between 3,000 and 4,000 students in 10 years’ time.
Organizers say students will pay just 25% of the costs they would pay to study at a university in the UK or US. In today’s sluggish global economy, this saving is likely to be appreciated by parents who fork out large sums of money to ensure their children get a decent education.
“We are very happy. We have done a lot of recruitment… and have had an excellent response from students,” says the human resources manager for TNE Ghana, Martha Amankwah.
The university will be offering its foundation program this year, and students who enroll in this program will continue their undergraduate studies in October 2014.
The owners of TNE Ghana undertook a similar project in Dubai with Australia’s Murdoch University. They say Ghana, with its growing middle class making it a lucrative sector for private education, was an obvious choice.
“Ghana is very important for us. We chose it because it is politically stable and a growing economy,” explains the project’s director, Raghav Lal. Post-graduate degrees will be offered as weekend programs, so students will be able to work and study simultaneously.
“Lancaster University Ghana will contribute to increasing the pool of internationally educated young people, ready to take their places in developing and growing the Ghanaian and wider African economy. It will join existing institutions of higher education to further enhance Ghana’s reputation as an educational hub for West Africa,” says the university’s vice chancellor, Mark Smith.
A range of undergraduate courses will be on offer, including management, business, international relations, computer science, law, psychology and the university’s world-renowned MBA program.
There will also be a bridging course for students who need additional training in order to be accepted into first-year courses. In the past, some government ministers have accused tertiary institutions of fueling the high level of joblessness among graduates, claiming universities and colleges enroll mediocre students who then graduate with sub-standard qualifications.
Students will be allowed to participate in summer schools at the university and they will have online access to Lancaster’s library. Lecturers will be flown in from the UK when necessary.
After completing their studies, graduates will receive the same degree certificate they would have if they had studied in the UK. “We will be giving students a UK education without them having to leave,” says Lal.
Although the university will not be targeting women students in particular, it says it has learnt some lessons from the Dubai experience and will set up what’s known as a ‘lunchbox association ’ to help women move forward in their careers.
The campus has appointed John Grainger as its provost. Until recently he was at Dubai’s Murdoch University.
“Lancaster University has earned an enviable global reputation for exceeding student expectations of quality service delivery in the UK and abroad. Students at the Accra campus will benefit from the same exceptional standards. We offer first-class facilities, a convivial environment and commitment to unswerving student focus,” Grainger says.
Rakesh Wahi, founder of TNE Ghana Limited, says: “This campus is our first education venture in West Africa and shares the group’s vision of creating a network of branch campus experiences in Africa, through quality teaching, state-of-the-art infrastructure, research-led curriculum and innovation in delivery of the curriculum.”
Wahi and Zafar Siddiqi are also the founders of CNBC Africa, FORBES AFRICA, and the ABN360 group.