University for Development Studies was established by the Government of Ghana in 1992 under the PNDC Law 279 in northern Ghana with an explicit mandate to blend its academic work with that of the community in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of northern Ghana in particular, and the country as a whole.
This study sought to investigate into how the university is responding and engaging in regional development in northern Ghana with specific focus on how it is responding to human capital development, innovation capabilities, and social and environmental development in northern Ghana. The study also sought to illuminate the key factors constraining the regional role of the university. The methodology used to pursue this objective is qualitative in nature based on semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis. In all thirteen respondents were purposefully selected from specific units within the university for the study.
The study reveals that UDS has undertaken a number of initiatives and programmes aimed at responding to its regional development mandate. The study shows that UDS allocates 40 percent of its admission place to applicants from its catchment area, creating opportunities for more females to be enrolled through its admission process, localising the teaching and learning process by adopting a curricula that integrates students into communities in the third trimester of each academic year, introducing new academic degree programmes and adapting existing ones in response to regional labour market needs, and responding to the needs of non-traditional students by introducing lifelong learning programmes.
The study also shows that there are some initiatives that have been taken to introduce innovative practices in agriculture (initiated both by the institution and individual academics) but little effort in building innovative capabilities in other industrial activities and local businesses. The University collaborates with the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute and the veterinary department of University of Glasgow to engage in research aimed at introducing improved varieties of seeds to local farmers in order to enhance agricultural productivity and improving the nutritional quality of animal feeds respectively.
The University is also responding in a variety of ways to the social, cultural and environmental development of Northern through the institution of the Third Trimester Field Practical Programme, engaging in public debate through the institution of the annual“Harmattan School”, promoting social and environmental development through research at the Centre for Continuing Education and Interdisciplinary Research, and improving the health needs of the people through the initiation of the Community-Based Education and Service (COBES) at the Medical School.
However, the study found that in spite of the above initiatives and programmes, UDS is saddled by a number of challenges in responding to its regional development mandate. Among these are inadequate funding of regional engagement activities by the national government and regional authorities, inadequate infrastructural development in northern Ghana, lack of ability and readiness of the regional economy to absorb university knowledge and graduates, lack of specific internal incentive structures to motivate academics to engage in activities of regional nature and unwillingness on the part of some academics to engage in activities of regional nature.