The attainment of university education is the ultimate goal of most Ghanaian students. However, the nation's five universities are able to admit only a small fraction of qualified applicants because of limited facilities and faculty. It is also relevant to mention that even though a number of the social science and humanities courses taught at the universities overlap, there is a degree of specialization regarding the courses that each university offers. For example, students seeking degrees in law, medicine, and public administration are most likely to seek admission to the University of Ghana at Legon, while those with interests in architecture, pharmacy, agricultural science, engineering, and the fine art prefer the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumase. Both the University of Cape Coast and the University College at Winneba are known for training graduates to teach in the nation's secondary schools. The University of Developmental Studies at Tamale in the Northern Region has courses in rural and community development. These classifications notwithstanding, most graduates performing the compulsory National Service at the end of training are placed in the nation's secondary schools for at least the first two years of their postuniversity employment. The university academic year (two semesters) runs from late September through early July, and the majority of students spend four years working toward their first degree. Of course, the time needed for postgraduate studies and medical training vary. It is also important to mention that Ghana's tertiary education is respected for its quality and relatively peaceful academic environment. In fact, the University of Ghana is one of three sites on the continent where the New York-based Council for International Educational Exchange sends American students for semester studies. The University of Cape Town in South Africa and a summer field study in Tunisia are the other sites. In addition, several European and American universities run "study abroad" programs at various Ghanaian sites.
Until the early 1970s, Ghana provided free university education. Due to crisis in the national economy, the provision for free textbooks was revoked. Since then, a loan scheme has been introduced to address students' concerns. But the issue of university funding was revisited again in the 1980s, when the ruling Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) called for cost sharing in education. Supporters of the plan have reminded critics and protesters that the economic privatization and reforms that characterized the 1980s were consistent with the education policy. Students' protests notwithstanding, the universities announced admission fees for first-year students in the latter part of the 1990s. Many have equated the fees to tuition charges and therefore a revocation of the concept of free university education in Ghana. This, however, has not reduced the enthusiasm for seeking a university degree. The enrollment of 9,609 students in the country's universities in 1990-1991, for example, was almost double the number for 1975. Also, it should be noted that the 1990-1991 figures preceded the addition of Winneba and Tamale to the university system. But despite these enrollment increases, the female representation in the general university student population in Ghana was as low as 22 percent in 1991. Also, 1997 information shows that fewer than 5 percent of the gross national enrollments are at the tertiary level, including teacher training colleges. Certainly, the percentage of students receiving university education is much smaller.
Besides university education, the nation provides opportunities for public higher education through other avenues. For example, there are 7 diploma-granting institutions, 21 technical colleges, 6 polytechnics, and 38 teacher training colleges. Furthermore, a number of private computer-training schools have opened at the major urban centers in the country.
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