Discourse in Institutional Administration of Public Universities in Ghana: A Shift towards a Market Paradigm?

Article excerpt

Introduction

The emergence of corporate strategies for universities in Ghana has come as an answer to the demand for clearly spelt out visions that position institutions of higher learning in the global marketplace to contest with other institutions of higher learning on equal footing. Furthermore, the government of Ghana has charged the universities to come out with strategies that would make the universities generate their own funds to supplement what the government offers for running the universities, and also place the universities on par with businesses on the world market. As a result, all public funded universities came out with individual documents entitled "Corporate Strategic Plan" (CSP).

Until recently, there were three public funded universities in Ghana: University of Ghana (UG), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the University of Cape Coast (UCC). These three universities were set up with different mandates to foster higher education not only in Ghana, but also in the West Africa Sub region. Because the universities were established either just before independence or just after it, they were shaped to follow the British university system. They were all fashioned on the University of London structure. Degrees were awarded from British universities until the Ghanaian universities became independent and autonomous. Even after they became autonomous, they were still run like British universities, focusing mainly on liberal courses and a few technical and professional courses.

In recent years, three additional public-funded universities have been established. The University of Education, Winneba (UEW), which was a university college of the University of Cape Coast and was then upgraded into a full university. The University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) which was a school in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and was also upgraded into a university, and the University of Development Studies (UDS) which was set up to cater for the northern sector of the country. This paper studies the CSPs from only the first three public-funded universities and also from the University of Education, Winneba. The CSP from the University of Mines at Tarkwa and the University for Development Studies are not studied for this paper because they were relatively new and had not been autonomous under the tertiary education system in Ghana for long. It is also assumed that UEW's CSP would be representative of the other two new public-funded universities.

As institutions of higher learning, the universities had their own nomenclature, which bordered on education, and was similar to what pertained in most British universities. However, with the coming of globalisation and the quest to fit into the world marketplace, there have been some changes in the general discourse in use in the administration of these institutions. This paper sets out to examine the discourse in documents that have become the acceptable documents used to show the vision and mission of four public funded universities in Ghana. The aim is to show how institutional discourse of the universities has changed over time and also to identify the new institutional identities that change brings into positioning the universities. I use Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1983) to show that the discourse that pertained in the administration of public funded universities in Ghana in past years has changed from academic discourse to a discourse which is steeped in business. This perspective is developed from the viewpoint that institutional discourses are linked to the organisation, situated conventions and practices that identify a social organisation as belonging to a particular situated setting (Agar, 1985). The new discourse in use in the CSPs of the universities studied has the tendency of eroding existing discursive systems in academic institutions and replacing them with marketisation nomenclature and expectations. …