THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA was founded in 1948 as the University College of the Gold Coast on the recommendation of the Asquith Commission, on Higher Education in the then British colonies. The Asquith Commission, which was set up in 1943 to investigate Higher Education, recommended among other things, the setting up of University Colleges in association with the University of London. This was followed up by a number of separate Commissions in different regions. The West Africa Commission was under the Chairmanship of the Rt. Hon. Walter Elliot.
The Elliot Commission published a majority report which recommended the establishment of two University Colleges in the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria, and a minority report which held that only one University College for the whole of British West Africa was feasible. The British Government at first accepted the minority report of the Elliot Commission and decided that a University College for the whole of British West Africa should be established at Ibadan in Nigeria. But the people of the Gold Coast could not accept this recommendation. Led by the scholar and politician, the late Dr. J.B. Danquah, they urged the Gold Coast Government to inform the British Government that the Gold Coast could support a University College. The British Government accordingly reviewed its decision and agreed to the establishment of the University College of the Gold Coast.
The University College of the Gold Coast was founded by Ordinance on August 11, 1948 for the purpose of providing for and promoting university education, learning and research. Its first Principal was the late Mr. David Mowbray Balme. Mr. Balme was far-sighted, courageous and dedicated to the promotion of scholarship. By his vision, industry and single-mindedness of purpose, he built a college and laid the foundations for a sound University which is now a source of pride. In his ten years of Principalship, he created an institution whose key-note was orderly living with dignity in a community of scholars.
One of the recommendations of the Asquith Commission was that the British Government should set up an Inter-Universities Council to advise on all matters relating to Higher Education in the new British Colonies. The Inter-Universities Council served the new University College of the Gold Coast in an advisory capacity, but it approved all academic appointments. This arrangement helped the College to maintain the high academic standards associated with the Universities in Britain. Also, it enabled the College to seek support of the Council in obtaining funds from the United Kingdom Government sources.
From its inception, the University College of the Gold Coast was admitted to the Scheme of Special Relationship extended by the University of London to certain English and overseas University Colleges. Under this scheme, the University College was allowed to teach for the external degree examinations of London University. It also allowed the College to modify the London syllabuses to suit local conditions and to take part in the setting and marking of examinations.
But London University gave final approval to courses and examinations since the degrees given were those of the University of London. For thirteen years, therefore, the University College looked up to two separate institutions in Great Britain: to the Inter-Universities Council for guidance on its broad policy, and to the University of London for approval and control of details of degree regulations. The University College benefitted greatly from this arrangement which certainly helped to maintain its high academic standards.
In the 1960-61 academic year, the College Council made a request to the Government of Ghana for legislation to constitute the University College into a University with the power to award its own degrees. The Government appointed an International Commission to examine the problem. On the recommendations of that Commission, the University of Ghana was set up by an Act of Parliament on October 1, 1961 (Act 79). The then President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, became the first Chancellor of the University, with Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, BLitt DPhil (Oxon), Omanhene of Essikado, as the (Interim) Vice Chancellor.