The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has hit back at President Akufo-Addo over his response to critics of the Universities Bill which is yet to be laid in parliament.

In a statement signed by the president of UTAG, Dr. Eric Opoku Mensah, the association described president Akufo-Addo’s view on their stance was unfortunate and worring.

President Akufo-Addo at the recent graduation at the University for Professional Studies, Accra described persons who expressed a different opinion and challenged clauses in the Bill as “mischief-makers” and “disingenuous.”

He also said such opinions are “flimsy.”

Mr Akufo-Addo insists the new Universities Bill will not, in any way, undermine academic freedom in public universities as being peddled by critics.

“The flimsy allegations being perpetrated that the bill will undermine academic freedom are deliberate mischief-making and disingenuous”, President Akufo-Addo said.

In reaction, UTAG released a statement on Thursday, 4 July 2019, signed by its president noting that the association, “finds the President’s description of the differing views by our cherished members of UTAG on the bill as unfortunate”.

He emphasised that: “UTAG also finds the description worrying and prejudicial, particularly when the Ministry of Education has assured us that it is considering the concerns of UTAG and those of other stakeholders before the bill is tabled before parliament”.

He underscored the importance to review the bill and further consultations before being laid in parliament and added that: “UTAG is strongly opposed to the Bill in its current form and that the proposed bill should be improved from its ‘zero draft stage’ to incorporate the critical views which have been expressed by key stakeholders”.

Dr Mensah said their position “will not change until the key concern of UTAG has been addressed in the good interest of public universities and Ghana.”.

“We wish to caution that failure to broadly consult could portend great danger for the smooth running of public universities in Ghana and UTAG should not be blamed if that becomes the case,” he concluded.

The Public Universities Bill which is expected to be sent to Parliament for consideration is being introduced by government to replace archaic laws at some public universities.

The proposed law, being sponsored by the Ministry of Education, spells out the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities, the principles of management of public universities and the legal status of public universities.

The bill also seeks to provide the procedure for financing public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of public universities and related matters.

UTAG joined a number of people and organisations condemning the bill as unnecessary and an attempt by government to control the universities.

The Association rather suggested to government, among others, to deal with specific challenges at every university.