From IPS to UPS: The Transformation of a Private School into a Respected Public Institute – Nana Opoku-Ampomah I’s Journey

UPSA founder
Nana Opoku Ampomah, Founder, University of Professional Studies Accra. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

Earlier this week on August 28, the management and alumni of the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA), celebrated the legacy of the founder of the institution, Nana Opoku-Ampomah I, on his 95th birthday at his residence in Accra.

They honoured him for his vision and immense contribution to the establishment of the institution in 1965.

Some of them recalled encounters they had with Nana Opoku-Ampomah, who is also the Paramount Chief of Amoafo Bekwai in the Ashanti Region, during their school days and how the founder had contributed to their success.

Below is the profile of the founder and first director of the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS), which has since been renamed UPSA, as well as how the institution started.


The founder and first Director of the then Institute of Professional Studies-IPS (now University of Professional Studies- UPSA), Joseph Kwaku Opoku-Ampomah (now Nana Opoku-Ampomah I), who was born on August 28, 1928, is an educationist, a businessman and the Paramount Chief of Amoafo – Bekwai, in the Ashanti Region.

He completed his basic education at the Bekwai Methodist Mission School on March 16, 1949; obtained his Elementary Certificate from the London Pitman Shorthand Institute (Kumasi) on August 17, 1950 and attained his General Certificate Education with the University of London from October 1950 to August 1961.

Work life, education

From October 1950 to August 1961, he was also employed by the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (now Institute of Public Education) of the University of Ghana as Regional Clerk for the Ashanti Region.

He was elected Regional Secretary of the People’s Educational Association, Ashanti Region, from 1958 to 1961. He was also appointed supervisor of the People’s Educational Association (P.E.A) Evening classes at Bantama, Kumasi from 1959 to 1961.

He resigned in August 1961 to read an L.L.B degree in the U.K. He studied at the Holborn College of Law in London, but owing to the lack of funds, he returned to the School of Administration of the University of Ghana at the commencement of the last academic year to read a BSc. Administration degree, which he completed on September 2, 1966.

After his graduation, he secured employment with the Daily Graphic on November 23, 1966 with the Editorial department as a journalist.

As an only child to his parents, he planned on having a large family. Married to four wives, he had 20 children (12 females and 8 males), four of whom attended IPS.

How IPS Started 

The Institute of Professional Studies (IPS), then the only private business college in Ghana to have a special relationship with the University of Ghana, was the brainchild of Joseph Kwaku Opoku-Ampomah, then Assistant Business Manager of the Daily Graphic.

Mr Opoku-Ampomah began to plan his institute, for he had learned through his own experiences what he called “the gap” in Ghana’s education system. He said there seemed to be the lack of facilities for further study for students unable to qualify for the sixth form and university, but who wished to continue their studies.

He was so determined to help those students that he decided not to take a full time job until he had gotten his school well underway, for he thought that once he had a full time job he  would be tempted to neglect his pet project.

Nana Opoku Ampomah (middle), Founder, University of Professional Studies Accra, with Dr George Akuffo Dampare (right), Inspector General of Police, and Jennifer Dede Adjabeng (left), Municipal Chief Executive, La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipal Assembly, after his 95th birthday celebration in Accra.

Training for Accountants 

In 1966 he applied for recognition from the National Liberation Council (NLC) government and a year later received approval to go ahead. He then applied to the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants (ACCA), now the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, in Britain and his became the only school in Ghana recognised to prepare students for their examination.

Students were also prepared for the Institute of Cost Accountants examination and those of the Association of International Accountants and Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

A rented property at Madina in Accra was first used and the present site obtained on long lease from the La Mantse stool land in 1969. In 1972, permanent buildings made up of lecture halls and dormitories for 400 students were put up on a 23.18-acre site.

Professor Alex Kwapong, the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, gave the institute valuable assistance. IPS reaped many advantages from its relationship with Legon, which included use of the school of Business Administration’s library, permission to buy books at cost price from the university’s bookshop, hire of university buses for study tours, and inter-institutional debates.

Perhaps most important is the use of university staff as IPS tutors in their spare time. The library was not yet built, although one of the lecture rooms was almost ready for use as a temporary library. The first few students took their ACCA exams in May 1968, and entrants had steadily increased with an average pass rate of 80-90 per cent.

Students from abroad 

Not all students were Ghanaians when the institute started – there were several from Nigeria, Togo and Dahomey, while the Tema Development Corporation sent an employee there, the Broadcasting Corporation sent two, and the Ministry of Education granted one of its officers study leave to attend.

When the first full dormitory block was completed, it was hoped there would be accommodation for 400 full time students.

Mr Opoku-Ampomah’s other educational project was a direct offshoot of his institute. He decided to start a small secondary school to prepare early school leavers for his Legon courses; so when the first phase of the IPS buildings was completed and students had been accommodated, he began to use the rented property at Madina for pre-professional studies.

So far, the institute has every ingredient for success – not the least in the dynamism and determination of its director. It started with a governing body of four, two of whom were lecturers at Legon, and a tutorial staff of over 20. There were several full time clerks and a students’ officer.

Nana Opoku-Ampomah I sees education as a means to an end rather than an end in itself and a means of helping to develop his country.

Stool transfer

“In 1974 my late uncle, Nana Akuoko Nimpa II, who was the divisional chief of the Amoafo Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region, wanted to transfer the stool he occupied to me on grounds of old age. I asked him for time to think of his demand.”

“When his political opponent who wanted to be Amoafohene heard of my uncle’s demand, he got his friend, the late General Kutu Acheampong who had become the military Head of State of Ghana to take over IPS in order to impoverish me.”

“General Acheampong then appointed a management committee headed by the late Professor Kwame Agyei of the School of Administration of the University of Ghana to run my school.”

“In 1976 when my uncle’s political opponent heard that I had refused to be my uncle’s successor, he got the head of state to dissolve the management committee of IPS and returned the school to me.”

“In 1977 my late uncle informed me that the late Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, the Asantehene, had threatened that if I refused to take my uncle’s place, he the Otumfuo would take the Amoafo stool from my uncle’s family. I was compelled to accept the offer.”

“When the time came I accompanied my uncle to the late Otumfuo Opoku Ware II to confirm my acceptance of becoming Amoafohene.”

“A few weeks later, when I went to IPS, Kutu Acheampong sent a truck full of armed police men and soldiers to drive me away from IPS, my brainchild.

Nana Opoku Ampomah (middle), Founder, University of Professional Studies Accra, being assisted by Margaret Opoku Ampomah (left), his wife; Dr George Akuffo Dampare (2nd from left), Inspector General of Police, and some family members to cut the cake to celebrate his 95th birthday

How I lost IPS

“When Ghana returned to constitutional rule, I sued the then constitutional head of state, the late Dr Hilla Limann, for compensation for my property at IPS. While the case was pending before an Accra high court, the military government headed by Jerry John Rawlings overthrew the civilian government.”

“During that period there were abductions and murders of judges in Ghana. Who then was I to insist on my right and what was due to me as a result of the military government’s takeover of my school?”

He, therefore, accepted the token the government gave him as compensation on a take-it or leave-it basis.

He has so far received as compensation GH¢100, a bust at the school, a Gold Award from the Alumni Association, a lump sum of GH¢10,000 and a monthly stipend of GH¢3,000 from 2016, which was increased to GH¢4,000 in November 2019.

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