Ashesi's History

Jump to topics below:
History | Feasibility Study | The Foundation | The University | Meaning of Ashesi | Logo and Identity


Ashesi was founded by Patrick Awuah, a Ghanaian who has spent over 15 years living and working in the United States. Awuah left Ghana in 1985 to attend Swarthmore College on a full scholarship, after which he worked for Microsoft Corporation as an engineer and a program manager for eight years. Experiencing firsthand the dramatic impact that education can have on one's life, Awuah embarked on a mission in 1997 to provide greater educational opportunities in Ghana. He enrolled in business school at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, both to evaluate the feasibility of his goal and to gain a broader range of managerial skills with which to found and manage a university.

Feasibility Study

During the summer of 1998, a team of four MBA students from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business traveled to Ghana to conduct extensive market research and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a new university. With the explicit goal of gathering statistically significant data to provide a strong foundation for business decisions, the team administered over 3,300 surveys to students and parents; conducted interviews and focus groups with parents, teachers and business leaders; and gathered secondary information from local and international sources. The result was a comprehensive feasibility study analyzing the Ghanaian tertiary education landscape by addressing both the demand and supply sides of the question of feasibility.

The Foundation

Ashesi University Foundation was founded in August 1999 and is spearheaded by a well-qualified Board of Trustees and management governance whose efforts are complemented by Advisory Boards located in the US and Ghana. The US Advisory Board is currently comprised of 25 academic advisors from some of the highest-ranking institutions in the United States: Swarthmore College, UC Berkeley and University of Washington. The Ghanaian Advisory Board comprises academics and business leaders in Ghana. Ashesi's Advisors have provided active input and guidance in our curriculum design process, and will continue to advise Ashesi on issues related to curriculum development, faculty and staff recruiting, exchange programs, and doing business in Ghana. To ensure that a rigorous academic standard is maintained, members of Ashesi's Business Advisory Councils at UC Berkeley, University of Washington and Swarthmore College have agreed to serve as external examiners.

The University

Ashesi was established as an independent, co-educational, public benefit education institution operating on a not-for-profit basis. It was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee on 24th October 2001 and has been operating as such since its inception. The University gained accreditation from the National Accreditation Board of Ghana in September 2001, and began instruction with 30 students on 4th March 2002. The University offers four-year bachelor degrees in Business Administration, Computer Science and Management Information Systems, based on a Liberal Arts core curriculum that nurture ethical thinking and fosters critical thinking by teaching students to explore the connections between fields of knowledge, to separate relevant information from the irrelevant, to question assumptions, to reflect on the views of others. The Ashesi education teaches students to be problem solvers.

As a company limited by guarantee, the Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179) and the University’s regulations require that all of Ashesi’s property and income are applied solely towards Ashesi’s educational mission. Ashesi is operated as a not-for-profit oriented entity, with one member; Ashesi University Foundation.

Ashesi admits students of all races colour, nationality, and ethnic origin to all its programs and makes available to these students all the rights and privileges; and the benefit of all programs and activities run by the university. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin in its admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs and in all other spheres of its operation.

The University has quickly gained a reputation for excellence in Ghanaian higher education. Over 95% of Ashesi’s graduates stay in Africa, working for efficiency, transparency and innovation in microfinance, technology, banking, NGOs and other areas. They improve the lives of fellow citizens and help grow Africa’s economy. Every Ashesi graduate, from our first class of ‘05, has found quality placement within months. African businesses and NGOs value their strong problem solving skills, pro-active approach, and ethical integrity.

Meaning of Ashesi

If there is anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

These words by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are the inspiration behind the university's name, Ashesi, which means "beginning" in Akan, a native Ghanaian language. Ashesi's founder, Patrick Awuah, first read Goethe's words at a time when he was still questioning the wisdom of undertaking such an ambitious project. Encouraged by Goethe's words, he began by undertaking a feasibility study of his idea. Clarifying the risks and issues at hand helped Awuah shed his reservations until one day he realized that he had lost his hesitation and had become very committed to this project. He then realized, "This really is the beginning!" But the name Ashesi is not only about its founder's inspiration. It is also about providing a new beginning for every student who comes to Ashesi. And about building an institution that reinvents itself to fit the changing needs of society, one that grows by replicating itself throughout Ghana and Africa.

Logo and Identity

The Ashesi logo, a hand drawn symbol, borrows from the tradition of "Adinkra design", used by the Akan people of Ghana to embody their knowledge, their moral and ethical beliefs, and their history. Ashesi's mark is a visual representation of Ashesi's mission. The lower part of the Ashesi mark is in the shape of a stool whose support structure consists of three pillars. These correspond to Ashesi's core values of scholarship, leadership and citizenship.  Stools hold significant cultural meaning for the Akan people of Ghana.

The circle above the stool depicts a morning sun and symbolized a new beginning. It is also the center of an eye, which symbolizes intellectual exploration and discovery. At a distance, the mark as a whole resembles a person standing under a roof, reflecting Ashesi's focus on the people in and around its community: students, teachers, parents and members of the broader society.



Before using the Ashesi logo in any way, please read our Branding and Identity Guide: Ashesi Branding and Identity Guide

Honour Code

The adoption of an Examination Honour Code in 2008 marked a significant step in the history of Ashesi University. Read more about this event.

Honour code whitepaper

Honour code statement signed by Ashesi students

Stay Connected

Stay connected with us on Facebook  Stay connected with us on Twitter  Stay connected with us on YouTube  Stay connected with us on Google+