Ghana’s National Accreditation Board was established in 1993 by the government of Ghana for four primary purposes.
One is giving official quality approval to both public and private tertiary education institutions in terms of curricula content and standards of academic programmes.
Two, it constantly monitors tertiary education institutions to ensure compliance with normative standards and ethics of organisation, governance, academic and administrative leadership.
Three, it ensures that education institutions satisfy appropriate standards in physical facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, academic and professional staffing.
Four, it determines the equivalence of degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded by institutions inside and outside Ghana.
Should Ghana’s National Accreditation Board (NAB) also evaluate the quality of doctoral degree programmes in Ghanaian universities? Such evaluation functions undoubtedly fall within the orbit of NAB’s legal role as state external quality assurance agency.
The need for these evaluation functions arises from the statistical fact that doctoral degree enrolment and graduation from Ghanaian universities are increasing steadily.
According to tertiary education statistics published by NAB, in the academic years between 2011-12 and 2015-16, doctoral degree enrolment in public universities averaged about 900 students. At private universities the number was 39 for 2014-15 and 85 for 2015-16. The total doctoral degree output of public universities for 2012-13 was 65 students compared to 1,854 students for 2014-15.
Given all these statistics, one begins to ask whether the universities producing those graduates complied with any additional quality assurance standards beyond those of their original accreditation.
If they did, what quality assurance standards are applicable to doctoral programmes or universities offering doctoral programmes in Ghana?
These questions are critical in that researchers have asserted that few evaluation systems and quality control mechanisms are in place in African countries to ensure the quality of doctorates awarded by universities.
In addition, the doctorate title confers a lot of social respectability and honour in Ghana. The reason is that those who attain a doctoral degree are regarded as having reached the highest summit of the knowledge pyramid.
It is believed that a journey to the top of the knowledge pyramid is marked by singular discipline, fortitude and self-sacrifice as well as accumulating knowledge. That is why NAB should take appropriate measures to protect the integrity of doctoral programmes offered in Ghana.
What happens elsewhere?
In a number of countries across the globe, accreditation of doctoral programmes is significantly different from that of undergraduate and graduate programmes.
Consequently, in some jurisdictions, two or three universities combine their resources to offer joint doctoral degree programmes, while others strategically concentrate on offering one or two accredited doctoral degree programmes according to their capacity.
Nevertheless, it is open knowledge that NAB has listed on its website the names of eight institutions that offer doctoral degree programmes despite the fact that they are unaccredited.