The final day of the ACU Conference of University Leaders in Ghana provided delegates with the opportunity to engage in debate with a distinguished panel of ministers, as well as each other.
The morning began with the ministerial panel discussion featuring the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General; the Hon Prof Dr Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Minister for Education in Ghana; and the Hon Dr Becky R K Ndjoze-Ojo MP, Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Namibia.
The all-female panel gave their insights into the role of higher education from the perspective of policymakers, calling upon universities to be visible and relevant. Ministers urged vice-chancellors to take an active role in shaping policy related to the Sustainable Development Goals, citing examples from poverty reduction to domestic violence.
A question from the floor on the effects of affirmative action on the performance of boys in education prompted an animated discussion on gender equality. Dr Opoku-Agyemang reminded the audience that the personal is political, citing the example of young women faced with marrying 'uneducated' men and the potentially negative effect that this can have on their family life.
Continuing a tradition established at the ACU Centenary Conference in 2013, the conference concluded with a debate, on the motion 'This house believes that society expects too much of higher education'. Chaired by Prof Jan Thomas (Chair of the ACU Council and Vice-Chancellor of the University Southern Queensland), delegates were joined by students from Lancaster University Ghana and alumni from the Commonwealth and Chevening Scholarship schemes for a lively contest between opposing sides. A vote was taken at the end of the debate, and the motion was lost.
The debate proved a fitting end to three days of dynamic discussions in Accra. Delegates commented on the stimulating programme content, and the refreshing focus on the topic of social responsibility.