Free Tertiary Education: Gov’t told not to compromise on quality

An aerial view of University of Ghana

The Founder of Knutsford University College in Accra has urged the government not to compromise on quality when considering making tertiary education free just as it did for the Senior High Schools under the Free SHS Programme.

Bishop John Kwamena Essel said while considering making tertiary education free for the public universities, it must also consider absorbing some costs from the private universities to enable them run effectively.

“We can’t compromise on quality. It’s better that way than not doing it well,” the Founder made this appeal in an interview with Onua TV’s Kweku Antwi-Otoo in Accra.  

Knutsford University College is an independent institution established in 2007 to help meet the increasing demands for quality but affordable university education in Ghana, Africa, and across the world.

Due to its impressive academic facilities, innovative life-changing programmes, dedicated staff, good governance and management structures and the conducive learning environment, Knutsford was accredited by the National Accreditation Board (NAB) of the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Ghana in the same year of establishment to begin operations in 2008.

It also got affiliation with the nation’s premier University of Ghana (UG) in 2011 for mentorship and award of UG’s degree to its graduates.

In 2017, the University College extended its affiliation with the University for Development Studies (UDS) also in Ghana.

Currently, the University College, which started with 25 students in 2008 at its plush East Legon campus in Accra, has grown in thousands and graduated over 1,000 students and still counting.

Bishop Essel explained that “anything free is a welcoming news just that people do not respect free things but learning is the surest way for development. We need to educate every citizen to make sure we grow collectively”.

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“So every government that wants to make education free should be hailed. We know financing will always be the challenge but if the government thinks there are funds to fund tertiary education in Ghana, we shall thank them.”

He further noted “we can’t do it well, especially [with] the quality, [but] if parents can also make tertiary education virtually free, that should be welcomed”.

Founder of Knutsford Univ College Bishop John Kwamena Essel

The Church of Christ Bishop was of the view that for those in the private schools, “government can absorb most costs to cushion the private because those at the public universities only pay academic user fees”.

“Those who come to private schools do so when they do not get their preferred programs in public but that does not mean we should not be helped. Free tertiary education will depend upon the financial strength of the country but we do not want compromising on quality.”

Free SHS

The man of God said “with the Free SHS…the government has demonstrated it can do but sustainability is another issue”.

“The government has a track record so if it says it can do tertiary education free, there is a proof to that effect [but] we should not compromise on quality tertiary education as a result of lack of funding.”

Bishop Essel admitted that “the Free SHS has gone through challenges but if these do not compromise quality then we should hail it but teaching and learning are not going well. We need to talk about it in order not rush into another free educational policy that would compromise on quality”.

Affiliation challenges

Bishop Essel noted that the University has affiliation with the University of Ghana-Legon and University of Development Studies but with some challenges.

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“Public schools are mentoring us. Our numbers are not too much but we are able to do things well because we are not too large. Our output is good but our programmes are not many and we would want to do more than the public schools,” he explained.

“It is a burden for [public universities] to mentor us because they have a huge task to do in addition to the ones being done for us but the bureaucracy in the public universities are the challenge.

“If we want something, we suffer and go through a tall list. [Private Universities] programmes must go to them and a committee is set. It goes to faculty and departments before they do assessments before it goes to the academic board and that’s a worry,” he explained.

The Bishop continued: “I have heard there is going to be a change in the laws that govern affiliations to the public universities and that must be sped up”.

“We [in the Private Universities] wish a special department is established for affiliation purposes so that if we apply for a programme, it will not delay.”

He explained that “money is also an issue… affiliation goes with money. We know if the public universities are charging the realistic fees for the affiliations, we could pay more, but because we are less in number and we have fewer students, the government should help us”.

“Government can pay some of the affiliation fees for the private schools in order to reduce our operational cost,” he explained.

Free tuition for media personnel

The Founder revealed that despite the financial constraints that Knutsford University College faces, it has instituted a free 13-week media course for every media person in the country.

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“One of the major stakeholders in the democratic development is the media. You are part of the development of Ghana so seven to eight years ago, we decided to come up with such a policy so every year, we invite such people for free tuition for all.”

He explained that “it is our contribution to the media spectrum. It is an open one because the media space is large. Most of them are gifted but they learn on the job so some do not have any academic qualification in the areas such as reportage and editing that influence society”.

“You are part. Presenters, reporters, editors are all invited on weekends. Once a week. It is on Fridays at 6pm to 8pm for thirteen weeks and we will offer them a course participating certificate.”

Asked on plans to expand such facility to other media houses across the country, Bishop Essel said “we hope to expand with them to the regions…that might be our next place we will go with such programmes but for now, you can come and sleep over in Accra, attend lectures on Friday evening and then set off to your destination moment after lectures”.

Bishop Essel added that “it is a very difficult chemistry but we have to do it for them.  We are squeezing the small we have to offer such a programme for the media and that means if we get more, we shall do more”.


Knutsford University College was recently awarded the ‘University of the Year 2021 and Excellent in Global Education’ by Global Union for Innovation Development and Education in the UK.