Educational Governance and Inequality in Higher Education: The Case of the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Jane-Frances Lobnibe.

Jane-Frances Lobnibe is a lecturer at the University for Development Studies, Ghana. Her research interests center on globalization and international education, diversity and social justice, gender relations, ecofeminism and sustainability.

In 1992, the University for Development Studies (UDS) was established with a mandate to increase higher education access for students in deprived rural regions of the country and northern Ghana in particular. As the first higher educational institution in the northern part of the country, the siting of the university campuses in three regions of northern Ghana serves in part to address the structural inequalities brought about by both colonial and post-colonial development policies as well as helps to address issues of access and affordability to bridge the human development gap between northern Ghana and the rest of the country. After twenty years of its existence, how far has this pro poor university fulfilled the socio-economic and equity imperatives of the four northernmost regions? This question needs to be addressed  in the context of contemporary research on structural inequalities in higher education that concentrate on conceptualizations that locate the politics of governance in processes that include or exclude certain groups from participation, representation and access  to educational and social practices.

This paper draws on interviews conducted with university administrators, and an analysis of enrollment trends and profiles of the students admitted into programs of two major faculties (school of Medicine and Agriculture) to assess UDS’ role in addressing educational inequality in the country within the framework of national accreditation standards and university policies. It attempts to unearth the silences of UDS governance that include/exclude social actors, perpetuating the very inequality it is purported to address. It will examine the extent to which the potentially equalizing effects of education have been ordered by the national accreditation board and UDS’ governance, and the implications for students enrolling from the deprived regions. The paper contends that the university has paid little attention to issues of access and representation of groups of social actors, but has rather adopted the narratives and production of images and principles that have historically been used to exclude the very groups from higher education participation for which it was established. It further argues that attempts to correct inequalities in higher education created by British colonial and post-colonial development policies cannot be done without engaging and confronting the very mechanisms and structures that have created the divide. To live up to its mandate UDS will have to rethink its governance principles as well as the narratives and images that are used to qualify or disqualify specific individuals from entrance.

 


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