Why Not Ghana?

As we witness the start of 2016, I am sure all of us in the education sector in Ghana would have done their analysis of business performance for 2015, which was affected by Ebola, impact of low oil prices on the economy, currency devaluation across Africa and many other factors which were not in an institution’s control. One of the major factor which impacted university enrollments across Ghana was turbulence in Nigerian economy. I am sure all of us agree on the fact that majority of the international students studying in Ghanaian private colleges (university colleges) are from Nigeria, any disturbance there is having a direct impact on the enrollment graphs in Ghana.

Despite these challenges, there were institutions that performed well by introducing innovative ideas in their recruitment and retention strategies. I remember one of the well-known institutions in Accra with majority of foreign students partnering with a bank to complete student’s verification process on their campus itself. This activity not only saved students time and money to verify their bank account to enable them to withdraw money from ATM in Ghana itself, but also benefited institution in reducing their default rate.  Without this, students were required to go back to their home country to complete the verification process.

But, is there such a big potential and sustained market existing in the tertiary sector and is there a scope of potential growth. If these factors exist, are we on the right track!! I tried to find out the potential markets in Africa and globally and took a clue into what other countries are dong to develop this sector as a mainstream contributor to their respective economies.

  • AFROL News (www.afrol.com) quoted that according to statistics published by Merill Lynch, the private higher education market will reach US$ 8 trillion by 2025. 
  • As per www.mgafrica.com, University World News cited a French government’s Campus Agency that noted that there were 380,376 African students were on the move in 2010, representing about a tenth of all international students worldwide and 6% of all African students.  

Good number of countries across the globe has developed themselves as a preferred destination for higher education for international students. Most of those countries have a strategic plan to make higher education attractive for international students which will eventually contribute significantly to their economy. Looking into the high number of African students crossing their national boundaries to get globally competitive higher education, I thought to check on the preparedness of some of those preferred or preparing to be preferred destinations.

Let me start by discussing about Mauritius. As per the Education Minister of Mauritius, country seeks 100,000 foreign students by 2020. Strategic plans developed by the country stressed on the development of Mauritius as one of the most preferred destination for higher education globally. The Government of Mauritius announced in 2015 that it had earmarked funds for the construction of five campuses in rural areas of the island, which otherwise are known more as a luxury holiday destination.  Mauritius government wants to transform higher education sector as one of the pillars of their economy.

But how is the Mauritius government planning to increase their international student strength from 1500 (from 65 countries; data as of 2014) to 100,000 by 2020? They are planning to do this by facilitating visa procedures, allowing full-time students to work, providing accommodation facilities and good infrastructure, developing new attractive study programmes for international students, starting a global marketing and public relations campaign and enhancing general conditions such as security aspects.

I would like to bring out more factors here, which will definitely help Mauritius achieve its target.

  • As per Tertiary Education Commission website, as of 2012, there were 71 higher education providers, as compared to 42 in year 2000.
  • Out of 71, 60 are private institutions.
  • Out of 45,969 students, representing 45% GER (Gross Tertiary Enrollment Ratio), 50% of the students were studying in the private institutions. It is to be noted that Mauritius has set itself a target of increasing the GER from current 45% to 72% by 2020.
  • Dedicated single window information portal to know more about studying in Mauritius. Portal managed by the government agencies responsible for improving international students enrollments in the country.
  • One of the most significant strategic goals (Strategic Plan 2013-2025) of the government is “Internationalisation of Higher Education”. Some of the key points in this are:
  • Implement marketing schemes to attract International students to study in Mauritius.
  • Encourage International tertiary institutions of high reputation, including renowned institutions among the top 500 universities to set up local campuses/units or partnerships in Mauritius.
  • Establish mutual recognition of qualification agreements on both bilateral and multilateral basis.
  • Encourage public-private partnerships to develop infrastructure projects for tertiary education.
  • Establish scholarships for international students to study in Mauritius.

If we discuss about South Africa, as per the numbers quoted by University World News about African students crossing their country to get higher education, South Africa gained the most in Africa. With over 15% students entering South African universities, it gained 57,321 international students in 2010 itself, which is much higher than UK, USA, Germany and Malaysia. According to www.mgafrica.com almost 18% of African students studying abroad are currently studying in South Africa, which has seen an 8% increase in international students since 2007. As of 2014, 68,000 international students were studying in South African universities.

If we talk about more developed nations, Australia, UK, USA, Germany, Norway and host of other European countries, their embassies and dedicated agencies for international student’s recruitment has been targeting Africans to register in their respective countries. Most of these countries have dedicated agencies which act as one point information centre for universities in their respective countries.

Does Ghana with a current tertiary GER of only 15.57% (2014, as per UNESCO Institute for Statistics) have a chance to challenge South Africa and attract more international students? As per data presented by Ministry of Education in June 2015, there were 10,383 international students representing merely 3.2% of 315,000 total university students. With over 81% of the total international students studying in private institutions, Ghana is among the top three destinations for tertiary education in Africa. But apart from these high accolade from international agencies, Ghana don’t have any dedicated agency like http://www.studymauritius.infohttp://www.australianuniversities.com.au, promoted by government to attract international students and implement marketing schemes to attract International students to study in Ghana. Ghanaian universities rely on their own innovative marketing and promotion schemes to attract international students and provide guidance to those prospective students.

If Ghana also sets up an agency like Mauritius, Australia, UK and other countries, I am very much sure that our universities which are very well competitive with our counterparts in other countries will be able to attract more international students. WHY NOT GHANA plan for 100,000 international students in its universities. It requires developing a strategic plan for tertiary education which can increase the number of international students in next 10 years and make Ghana as a preferred destination for higher education in Africa. If we do so, this sector will become one of a major pillar to the country’s economy too.