The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Kwesi Yankah, has expressed grave concern about the gross abuse and sometimes the fraudulent uses of academic titles and academic honours by imposters and academic charlatans.
According to him, the current proliferation of the titles could indeed trigger a major devaluation of honours and academic credentials in the country, saying that some of the titles, particularly those purported to be international, turn out to be nothing but phony street side commodities that are subject to normal price negotiation and payment.
“Indeed the awards and honours industry is now a lucrative business, which has found fertile ground in the local penchant for pomp and pageantry; and it should be the duty of major stakeholders, such as Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences to undertake periodic intervention,” he stressed.
Prof. Yankah, who was speaking at the 50th anniversary celebration symposium of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in Accra, maintained that the issue has been compounded by the public’s reverence for academic titles and the assumed capacity of lofty epithets to expedite one’s ride to fame and political power, whether as Minister, Member of Parliament or Municipal Chief Executive.
He said there is indeed a general perception that high academic laurels of an aspirant to political office could enhance his credibility and capacity to canvass for local and national development.
According to him, disputed titles used in Ghana include religious honorifics, saying that without due process, lay preachers perhaps in the name of free expression, have elevated themselves overnight as pastors, reverend ministers, bishops and archbishops, bypassing laid down procedures in the conferment of such professional positions.
“Of late the title, “Reverend” soon after its use, has quickly attracted the Doctor, Dr, to render the honoree a “Reverend Dr,” or the like. A close look would sometimes reveal that none of the titles has been properly earned,” he adduced.
He said in the case of the candidates whom a PhD or doctor of philosophy degree is being conferred, the prerequisites are clearly stated in the universities’ regulations and that often times requires a thesis of at least 250 pages examined, passed and defended through a viva.
“At a graduation ceremony, the highest authority within the University of Representative goes beyond a verbal declaration. The recipient, as a mark of having attained the highest academic degree, is publicly robed or vested with a distinctive insignia,” he added.
Prof. Yankah said among the academic titles, none has been used as contentiously as the title “Professor” and of late “Professor Emertitus”, explaining that the meaning of the word professor varies – it is a Latin word, meaning a person who professes to be an expert in some art or science or teacher of the highest rank.
He said in several countries, including United States of America (USA) Canada, United Kingdom (UK) and the former British colonies, as in Africa, it is a title conferred by a university to denote the highest academic rank and that professorship is indeed a verdict on excellence.
He said the title “emeritus” is so abused in Ghana that even though used as a supplement to the professorial, people have used Professor Emeritus, even where the professorship has not been earned in the first place.
“Indeed title explosion has been so pervasive; it may even have affected the colour and quality of our national honours. In a highly polarised environment such as Ghana’s, national awards for example, stand the risk of losing their value due to overwhelming political patronage and sponsorship. Our national honours, otherwise considered as epitomizing the highest recognition by the State, have sometimes scored low grades in their failure to look beyond the partisan horizon.”
The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana said title conferment should then be considered more as responsibility and a burden than a privilege, saying that at least it should challenge honorees to stay the course and not deflate the exacting standards for which the honour was bestowed.
Credit: The Ghanaian Observer