The prestigious WISE Prize for Education has been presented to Dr Patrick Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University, a private, non-profit institution that has become one of Ghana’s premier universities in little over a decade.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, presented the Prize to Dr Awuah at the opening of the eighth World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, Qatar, before an audience of 2,000 participants from at least 100 countries.
The WISE Prize for Education is the first distinction of its kind to recognise an individual or a team of up to six people for an outstanding, world-class contribution to education. The Laureate receives the WISE Prize for Education gold medal, and US $500,000.
Dr Patrick Awuah is well-known for his dedication to supporting education in Ghana and across Africa. Every Ashesi University graduate has found quality employment, and almost all have remained in Africa, where many have started much-needed businesses. Dr Awuah’s innovation in higher education is not only empowering students; it also has the potential to transform Ghana and other African nations by developing a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.
Fostering Ethical Leadership
Dr Patrick Awuah left Ghana in 1985 with $50 in his pocket and a full scholarship to Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, US. Over the next four years, its liberal arts education showed him the power of critical thinking, a stark contrast to his prior schooling.
After graduating, Dr Awuah had a very successful career at Microsoft where he spearheaded design for dial-up Internet access. Keen to make a difference in his own country, he returned to Ghana, intending to start a software company.
Arriving back in Ghana, he quickly understood that fostering ethical leadership would be key to building a generation that is able to bring positive change in Africa. He decided to go back to study, this time to the University of California, Berkeley, to understand what it takes to start a university that would foster leadership and integrity.
I decided to create a new university in Ghana not because of a lack of universities in my country, but a lack of universities teaching 21st century skills. There was too much emphasis on rote learning and memorisation, much less on critical or independent thinking, ethics or collaboration. I decided to open a university that would offer young Ghanaians and Africans the opportunity to excel and become problem solvers – the next leaders of Africa.’
In 2002, Ashesi University (Ashesi means ‘beginning’ in Akan) opened its doors in a rented house with its first class of 30 students.
World Class Campus
Today, Ashesi University has a world class campus of 100 acres, overlooking Accra, with nearly 900 students. Ashesi University offers four-year bachelor degrees in engineering, business administration, computer science and management information systems. The degree is based upon an inter-disciplinary curriculum with a continual emphasis on leadership, ethics and entrepreneurship. Before graduating, all students engage in community service.
Ashesi University places emphasis on cultural, economic, and gender diversity with 50% of the students on full or partial scholarships. Half of students are women and over 20 countries are represented. In 2008, Ashesi University students established an honour code, holding themselves responsible for ethical behaviour, the first of its kind in African universities.
On receiving the WISE Prize, Dr Awuah said he is honoured to receive the WISE Prize for Education.
This is a crucial moment for Africa – today, one out of six people on earth live in Africa, and this is set to rise to one in four by 2050. We urgently need to boost the education system in Africa to ensure we can tap into this shift to strengthen the continent. Winning the WISE Prize will support the work we are already doing at Ashesi University College to inspire and educate, and build a community of people who can navigate the complexities of Africa’s growth and set an example for the rest of the world.’
The annual WISE Summit offers an opportunity for partners and innovators in the education sector to meet and make a difference. Check out this link for more information about the event.