Background to the Ascendancy of female Senior Higher Education Institution (HEI) Administrators
On 23rd July 2020, I wrote a fascinating piece in the University World News entitled Female business school dean brands on the rise, in which I sought to argue that several female business school leaders in Africa have a demonstrable track record of solid professional performance and their brand performance tends to have a positive ripple effect on the institutional brands they lead.
In that article, I concluded by averring that the glass ceiling for women’s higher education leadership brands in Africa should become rapidly outmoded since female CEO brands are bringing as much, if not more, to the leadership table than their male counterparts. Now, in that article some of the female Senior HEI administrators I profiled included Professor Nicola Kleyn, who at the time was the Dean of the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria and Professor Enase Okonedo, who at the time was the Dean of Lagos Business School. Today, Professor Nicola Kleyn is Dean of Executive Education at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and Professor Enase Okonedo is now the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Pan-Atlantic University, where the Lagos Business School is domiciled.
The Global Picture
So, what do I seek to achieve in this new article? Well, I want to bring a sharp focus on the rise of the Senior HEI administrators and particularly on the rise of female Vice Chancellors the world over. A recent Times Higher Education article entitled International Women’s Day: Top Universities Led by Women , noted that the current number one institution globally (the University of Oxford) in the Times Higher Education Rankings in the Oxford University is led by political scientist, Louise Richardson, while three of the prestigious Ivy League institutions in the US, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Brown University, also have female leaders. Other notable Universities led by female leaders include University of California, Berkeley, Imperial College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, and the University of Washington. In the case of the King’s College London, Evelyn Welch was interim president and principal of King’s College London, a position she has held from January 2021 until June 2021.
The African Picture
So, what is the situation with Africa? Well, in South Africa for instance, four out of the twenty-six universities have female Vice Chancellors and some of these include Professor Sibongile Muthwa from Nelson Mandela University and the University of Mpumalanga’s, Professor Thoko Mayekiso. The Vice Chancellor of Africa’s leading University, the University of Cape Town is also a woman, and she is Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. The Polity online magazine also argued recently that more than 15 female vice-chancellors have led Nigerian universities and the recent appointment of Prof Lilian Salami as the vice-chancellor of the University of Benin in Edo state was widely praised.
The Ghanaian Picture
So, what is the situation in Ghana? Well, the Ghana web recently reported that the University of Ghana has recently appointed Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo as Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and that prior to her appointment, Universities in Ghana had only had two female Vice Chancellors, with the joy online website reporting that in 2020, Prof. Rita Dickson was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, making her the second female to be appointed to the position in a public university after the University of Cape Coast’s Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang . The same article reported that with the Chancellor, Registrar and Council Chair of the university all being females, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo completes a quartet of an all-female leadership of the university. Now, if this is not a potent statement of the ascendancy of female Senior HEI administrators in Ghana, then I do not know what is.
Why Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo Will be a Great Acting Vice Chancellor
The University of Ghana Council appointed Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University and her tenure started on August 1st, 2021. She took over from Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu who delivered a sterling performance as Vice Chancellor over a five-year period. Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu left a legacy of deepened accountability and governance systems epitomised by such landmark events like the appointment of a Chief Risk Officer for the University and the establishment of brand-new Logistics Directorate. He also established the first Office of Institutional Advancement where I serve as the first Acting Director.
So, what will Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo bring to the table as Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana? First, I believe she will bring a new focus on marketing communications and brand building to the University of Ghana. In a meeting with members of the Alumni Council of the University of Ghana last week, she intimated that she is particularly interested in deepening University alumni bonds and using this as a mechanism for fund raising and growing the University’s endowment.
On August 10th 2021, the University of Ghana Twitter account tweeted “The Ag. @UnivGh_VC, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, has held a consultative meeting with the UG Alumni Council.
The meeting discussed strategies the Alumni Association intends to use for fund raising to support the modernization of lecture halls on UG campuses”. In using this as quoted tweet on August 11th, the Acting Vice Chancellor tweeted thus: Calling on all UG alumni to support their alma mater. Let’s do this together! This call to action is in keeping with her zeal to see alumni bonds grow stronger and stronger.
In that same meeting, she also noted that the University of Ghana should also begin to solidify its corporate brand propositions by developing a new coherent strategy for brand storytelling and this for me, was the clearest signal; that the University of Ghana will begin to take its rightful brand place as the leading University brand in Africa.
The second reason why I believe she will make a great Acting Vice Chancellor is that she represents a strong CEO brand proposition. She is a well-established female academic, has served as Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Ghana and has a solid international network. The citi FM website reports that she is a pioneer fellow, senior scholar, and Chair of the Steering Committee of the African Humanities Program of the American Council of Learned Societies. She is also a fellow of the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD), Commonwealth Professionals Fellowship and the prestigious International Women’s Forum Leadership Program and has been awarded a Georg Foster Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The importance of strong CEO brands to overall institutional development cannot be overemphasized. In the University World News article I alluded to at the beginning of this article, close to 50% of the reputation of a company can be attributed to the standing of its CEO. A sterling marketing group article contended that like it or not, today’s CEO has been precast in the role of their company. For higher education institutions, a CEO brand is the packaging of its leaders into tangible market offerings that offer value to the various university stakeholder audiences. Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, as a CEO brand, will do nothing but catalyse the University of Ghana’s brand to much higher heights.
Another reason why the Nana Aba Appiah Amfo brand is also so potent for the growth of the University of Ghana currently, is that she is a huge advocate of delivering superior student experiences. In her role as Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Affairs), I have been in several situations with her where she has sought to champion the delivery of superior service, to either current students or alumni of the University. In an African public sector, characterised sometimes by less than commendable customer experiences, this would be the best time for the Acting Vice Chancellor to begin to fully implement the newly passed University of Ghana Customer Service and Marketing and Communications Policies.
Like I concluded again in my University World News article , the achievements of Nana Aba Appiah Amfo represent a microcosm of the notable work by women leaders in African higher education institutions. The CEO brand commonalities I glean from the female higher education institutional brands in Ghana and across Africa include competence, innovation, integrity, ethical management, and global relevance – all of which are most refreshing for higher education institutional development in Africa.
Finally, the Acting Vice Chancellor has an increasingly growing army of female Vice Chancellors the world over and she could easily tap into that network to deliver truly stellar service to Ghana’s oldest University. I wish her all the best in my capacity as Director of Institutional Advancement in the Office of the Vice Chancellor and say cheers to a brilliant acting tenure and possibly a regular one in the not-too-distant future.
Professor Robert E. Hinson is the Acting Director of Institutional Advancement at the University of Ghana and was recently ranked the number one marketing scholar in Africa.