Alabi sowed the seeds, Okoe Amartey nurtured, the Sammy Darko – UPSA experience

My voyage into the realm of Academia at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) coincided with the transition from the tenure of the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joshua Alabi, to the incumbency of the new Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abednego Feehi Okoe Amartey.

Following an eventful period of nearly 11 years involving experiences in journalism, intelligence gathering, postgraduate studies, and professional endeavors, I discovered myself at the juncture of uniting the domains of education and legal advocacy. I became one of the chosen individuals to become a part of the UPSA community in 2016. Since then, my focus has centered on imparting knowledge and conducting research in areas such as media law, public interest journalism, and communications.

Acknowledging our talents and backgrounds, Prof. Okoe Amartey astutely assembled a dedicated unit under the Office of the VC, entrusted with the pivotal task of elevating the university’s reputation and image. Our mission encompassed rectifying misconceptions, dispelling erroneous perceptions, and countering unfavorable public relations surrounding the nascent institution.

My first encounter with the UPSA campus coincided with my initiation into the employment process. During that juncture, I pondered over what more could be infused into the fabric of the university. I had the privilege to delve into a documentary tracing the evolution of the then Institute of Professional Studies (IPS) into a full-fledged university under the stewardship of Prof. Alabi. Evident progress materialized in the form of imposing lecture halls, a capacious library—one of the largest comparable to the University of Ghana BalmeLibrary—a striking administrative edifice, and the university hospital, among other notable developments. The University had also awarded contract for the construction of a 3550-capacity auditorium and a student Centre. Construction was at the foundation stage at the time Prof. Okoe Amartey became VC.

Leadership transition and its attendant challenges, the advent of Prof. Okoe Amartey’s leadership was not without criticism. However, it’s important to note that a considerable portion of these criticisms lacked accuracy, contained false information, and were fueled by baseless propaganda primarily disseminated by dissatisfied factions within the university. These voices decried Prof. Okoe Amartey’s ability to safeguard the university’s achievements and questioned his aptitude to drive it forward.

This epoch marked the maiden trial for our Unit. Over the course of nearly half a year, our team diligently countered these misleading narratives through consistent dissemination of counteracting facts and information. What many did not know was that Prof. Okoe Amartey had prepared and groomed himself for the top job ticking all the academic boxes.

By nature, Prof. Okoe Amartey exudes a composed demeanor, steadfast and undeterred. He deploys his smile as a shield against the onslaught of propaganda. Our encounters often consisted of briefings wherein I relayed the criticisms directed at him. Yet, he consistently steered the conversation towards action, focusing on the path forward rather than dwelling on detractors.

Today, as discussions abound regarding UPSA’s caliber of infrastructure and faculty, it is a testament to this visionary man, who, despite the cacophony of skepticism, envisioned this future long ago. He often reiterated that the most effective way to silence one’s critics is to achieve precisely what they declare one cannot.

Gradually and persistently, the team, of which I am an integral part, toiled tirelessly day and night. In a groundbreaking achievement, UPSA secured its debut appearance in the esteemed 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, underscoring its stature as a forward-looking bastion of learning both within Ghana and on the global stage. The coveted “reporter status” is conferred upon universities that are progressively enhancing their capabilities, newly established, or undergoing transformative shifts to align with THE’s stringent criteria. The annual World University Rankings meticulously evaluate an institution’s prowess across four key domains: teaching, research, knowledge dissemination, and international perspective.

In the most recent ranking edition, three other distinguished Ghanaian universities secured positions. The University of Cape Coast merited placement within the 301-350 range, while the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the University of Ghana (UG), garnered spots within the 1001-1200 range. Yet, the narrative expands further. UPSA has consistently maintained its status in tandem with the University of Ghana and Ashesi University since 2019. Moreover, the year 2023 witnessed the inclusion of new Ghanaian academic institutions in the rankings, including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Health and Allied Sciences, and The Academic City University College.

The website of a University serves as a portal into its world. Since 2016, the UPSA team has diligently revamped the university’s website to rival those of the finest institutions worldwide. It’s safe to say that UPSA boasts an exceptional website, perhaps even unrivaled. Feel free to explore it at your leisure: Furthermore, the remarkable social media presence has played a pivotal role in connecting with the youth and students, garnering significant recognition.

I was a member of a committee established by the Vice-Chancellor (VC) to establish the UPSA Annual Leadership Lecture. This committee was led by the late Lepowura Alhaji M.N.D Jawula. Together, we effectively launched the inaugural lecture, featuring a distinguished address by Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who now serves as the African Union High Representative for Silencing the Guns. Subsequent lectures included notable speakers such as President John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah.

Under the guidance of Prof. Okoe Amartey, there has been remarkable progress in elevating the quality of education and learning at the University. A notable achievement is the making of UPSA law school competitive, led by the dynamic dean, Prof. Kofi Abotsi. Additionally, the University is proud to house a Center for Peace and Security Research, administering a highly sought-after Master of Arts programmein Peace, Security, and Intelligence Management, which has garnered significant interest. I played a pivotal role in its inception, serving as the inaugural coordinator.

Furthermore, the University offers a variety of doctoral programs, including a PhD in Marketing, Accounting and , along with several competitive master of philosophy, master of arts, and master of science degree courses. Master level programmes have more than doubled. A newly implemented research policy led by Prof. Ibrahim Mohammed has led to an increase in peer-reviewed publications, incentivizing contributions to esteemed journals. Promotion within the faculty is now contingent upon publishing in such reputable outlets. Enhancements in supervision, quality control, and compliance have been implemented across the University, with a strong emphasis on producing graduates who are industry-ready professionals. This has led to numerous successful partnerships between academia and various industries, earning the University the reputation of being a hub for producing skilled professionals, hence the moniker “The Professional University.”

The university’s enrollment has surged from roughly eight thousand to exceeding twenty thousand, a clear testament to the robust confidence in its brand.

Regarding infrastructure, there is an existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at expanding and equipping the University hospital to provide comprehensive healthcare services, solidifying its status as a leading medical facility in the Madina enclave. The management has also taken steps to cater to physical well-being by constructing a 500-seat capacity AstroTurf for sports and exercise. Both the UPSA Auditorium and the 6-story Student Centre have been completed and in use.

Under the leadership of Prof. Okoe Amartey, one of the most ambitious projects on campus has materialized—the UPSA Twin Towers, an impressive 10-story twin building that serves multiple functions, including housing the law school, lecture halls, and faculty offices. Around the campus, two expansive new hostels have been built, each accommodating approximately 4,000 students. Additionally, a village for Senior Management is nearing completion, providing housing for key administrative figures such as the Vice Chancellor, Pro VC, Registrar, and other senior staff members.

Furthermore, UPSA boasts a robust virtual learning ecosystem that underwent extensive deployment and rigorous testing throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Edwin Tetteh Ayernor, along with the Director of the UPSA ICT Directorate- James Tetteh Ami-Narh-exhibited exceptional performance, successfully transitioning the entire university to the online mode of education.

These achievements stand as a testament to the collective effort of the faculty and management. Prof. Okoe Amartey’s adept leadership, together with the then Pro VC, Prof. Charles Barnor(a strategic thinker who is also adept with Academic programme designs and implementation), in guiding faculty, management, and students toward a shared commitment to transform the University’s narrative has yielded remarkable results. His consistent engagement, particularly with students and alumni, has instilled a sense of belief and pride in their institution. A notable strategy employed by Prof. Alabi to support Prof.

Okoe Amartey’s goals was the ground works, foresight, employment of talents which later Prof. Okoe Amartey assembled from both faculty and management into specialized units, contributing significantly to these achievements. I am honored to have played a role within this capable team.

As Prof. Okoe Amartey’s tenure draws to a close next year and a new Vice Chancellor assumes leadership, one may wonder what further advancements can be made at the University. It may appear that every possible milestone has been attained, until a visionary leader takes the reins.

As for my personal journey, new challenges continue to present themselves. Even before Prof. Okoe Amartey’s tenure ends, I have been entrusted with a new assignment at the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP). While congratulations are appreciated, this new task may mark my most formidable endeavor yet—to combat corruption in Ghana.

Prior to this assignment, I held the belief that corruption was ingrained in the Ghanaian culture, a notion that any attempt to alleviate it would be met with resistance and hostility, often fueled by misinformation and propaganda. At times, it appears to me that, Ghanaians are more inclined to embrace those who harm us, while rejecting those who endeavor to address the harm.

May the Lord help us.

Sammy Darko
Attorney/lecturer/Analyst/fmr. BBC Correspondent for Ghana.

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