It is now an offence, with severe penalties, for a tertiary institution to advertise or run a programme for which it has no accreditation.
This follows the coming into force of the Education Regulatory Body Act, 2020 (Act 1023).
The penalties include either paying a fine of not more than GH¢240,000 or the vice-chancellor (VC)/rector of the institution concerned going to prison for up to 20 years or both.
The Commissioner of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), Professor Mohammed Salifu, made this known in an interview with the Daily Graphic.
The new act has scrapped the affiliation policy and requires all existing private university colleges currently under affiliation to expedite action towards chartering.
Before the act, any newly established private university was required to go into an affiliation with an existing chartered private university or any public university for a period of at least 10 years before seeking for a charter.
Prof. Salifu explained that “while easing the pathway to charter, we also have to make sure that people are held responsible”.
The same law created the GTEC to regulate the tertiary education sub-sector.
Prof. Salifu, therefore, advised V-Cs “to go and come clean” by making available the programmes being run by their institutions, especially those not accredited, for possible rectification “to avoid the avoidable”.
“They must bring all the programmes they run for us to see if we can give them amnesty, so that they go and sin no more,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Section 36 of the Education Regulatory Body Act, 2020 (Act 1023) spells out the offences and penalties that come with errant institutions and their VCs.
The offences, according to the law includes “A person who (a) operates a tertiary education institution or runs a tertiary education programme that is not accredited; (b) advertises a tertiary education institution or a tertiary education programme that is not accredited; (c) fails to register an institution as required under this Act.”
Prof. Salifu said the offences and penalties also included, “a person who fails to register an institution, as required under this act, or refuses to comply with a request for information by or on behalf of the commission or refuses to provide information, that is an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of not less than 10,000 penalty units and not more than 20,000 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years and not more than 20 years or to both.”
The commissioner said the legal framework and the punishments were part of strategies to ensure that with the phasing out of the mentorship policy regarding newly established private universities, standards were not compromised.
“It is important for the public to know that the paradigm has shifted and we are no longer doing business as usual,” he said.
Prof. Salifu said denying access to relevant records, books, records returns and other facilities to a person authorised by the commission to obtain information or obstructing a person commissioned to obtain such information could land the institution and its management in trouble.
“Any person providing information to the commission which that person knows is false or does not have a reason to believe to be true, or publishes, advertises or causes to be advertised or published in the media, whether print or electronic, any information on any institution that has not been granted institutional or programme accreditation commits an offence,” he explained, citing the law.