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Unfinished Degrees: The Thesis Struggle Facing Ghana’s Postgraduate Students-A Call for Systemic Reform

Postgraduate students in the majority of our universities are encountering significant obstacles. Despite the presence of numerous institutions offering advanced academic programmes, concerns about the quality and effectiveness of postgraduate education in some of our universities are on the rise.

The issue of some postgraduate students not being capable of writing their thesis or dissertation in order to successfully graduate demands immediate attention from the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC). It is important to acknowledge that many students are drawn to these programmes with hopes of gaining specialized knowledge and research skills, only to find themselves struggling to meet their expectations.

This disconnect not only diminishes the value of advanced degrees but also jeopardizes the professional prospects of our future academics and specialists. These students encounter hurdles that impede their academic and professional growth, raising questions about the effectiveness of the postgraduate programmes available in these universities. There is a pressing need for systemic reforms to ensure that postgraduate education serves as a catalyst for personal development and national advancement, adequately preparing students for their future endeavours and not as a scarecrow.

The Heart of the Matter

The predicament of postgraduate students in Ghana is a crucial issue that transcends the boundaries of academic inconvenience- it casts a long shadow on the very essence of higher education’s promise: to nurture the next generation of scholars, innovators, and leaders. The dilemma begins when students, driven by a fervent desire for advanced knowledge and skill enhancement, confront a reality starkly different from their expectations.

Many academic institutions appear to operate under the assumption that postgraduate students should arrive not just ready to learn, but already equipped with a high level of research acumen. This fundamentally flawed premise undermines the purpose of advanced study and research, which is to develop and refine these very skills under expert guidance. It’s essential to recognize that if postgraduates were already experts in sophisticated research methodologies and data analysis tools, the necessity for further education would be moot. The role of postgraduate education should inherently be to bridge the gap between generalist knowledge acquired at the undergraduate level and the specialist expertise required in professional and academic fields.

This gap, unfortunately, is where many students fall, finding themselves inadequately supported by their institutions. The result is a significant number of students who struggle to complete their thesis or dissertation, not due to a lack of effort, but because they are not effectively taught how to conduct the level of research required. The question then becomes: Why are students paying substantial fees if not to be taught these essential skills? The disconnect between the fees paid and the quality of education and support provided must be addressed if Ghanaian universities are to maintain their credibility and continue to attract and produce competent scholars.

 A Call for Transparency and Accountability

Authorities in charge, are you aware of the admission and graduation rates of postgraduate students in our public universities? The statistics paint a telling picture of the systemic issues at play. These rates are not merely numbers; they reflect the lived realities of students grappling with inadequate academic support and unclear academic pathways. This situation demands transparency and proactive engagement from all stakeholders involved, including the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG). GRASAG, what measures are being implemented to advocate for the improvement of these critical metrics? Your role is pivotal in representing the interests of the student body, ensuring their voices are heard, and their educational experiences are enhanced. It is essential to foster a dialogue between students, universities, and regulatory bodies to address these pressing issues.

The Financial Burden

The financial strain on postgraduate students is severe. Many invest their savings or take on substantial debts in anticipation of receiving a return on investment through enhanced career prospects and intellectual growth. When the education provided fails to meet these expectations, the financial implications are not just immediate but can have long-lasting effects on students’ professional and personal lives.

The cost of postgraduate education currently is considerably high, yet many students find themselves in a position where they have to seek additional resources outside their programme to learn necessary research skills. This not only increases their financial burden but also extends their time in school, delaying their entry into the workforce and their ability to begin paying off their debt. This situation raises critical questions about the accountability of some universities in delivering the value that students pay for.

The Structural Inadequacies

The structural deficiencies within our  postgraduate education stem from outdated curricula that do not align with contemporary academic and industry demands. This misalignment does not adequately prepare students for the complexities of today’s research challenges or the expectations of the global job market. Moreover, the lack of structured support systems within institutions further exacerbates the problem. Students often report feelings of isolation and neglect, pointing to a glaring deficiency in the mentorship and guidance that is essential to their success. Effective mentorship is not merely about overseeing students; it is about engaging with them intellectually, providing them with feedback, challenging their assumptions, and encouraging a deeper understanding of their subject matter.


The current state of our postgraduate education requires urgent reform. Educational institutions, along with governmental oversight bodies, need to collaboratively track the admission and graduation rate of postgraduate students. They must forge pathways that will lead to the enhancement of academic programmes and support structures. By focusing on aligning educational outcomes with the expectations and needs of the global and local markets, Ghana can ensure its students are not only satisfied with their educational investment but are also well-prepared to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country. Investing in quality education is investing in the future, and it is high time that all stakeholders recognized and act upon this undeniable truth.


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