Our History

Ashesi (Ah-SHESS-ee; the middle syllable rhymes with chess) means “beginning” in the local Akan language. Ashesi University was founded by Ghanaian Patrick Awuah, who grew up during Ghana’s chaotic military dictatorship. Patrick earned a full scholarship to Swarthmore College, then was recruited to work at Microsoft where he gained a reputation for bringing difficult projects to completion.

After the birth of his son, Patrick felt a pull to return to Africa and help his home continent. Why, he wondered, had Africa progressed so little since independence? Everywhere he looked, Awuah observed that “People in positions of responsibility were neither fixing problems nor creating solutions. If young Africans are to take charge of creating a thriving Africa—rather than perpetuating corruption and inefficiency—they will have to develop a new mindset, and new capabilities."

Building a better future for Africa since 2002


  • 1997: Founder Patrick Awuah gives up his successful US software career to return to Africa. To help bring ethics, innovation and entrepreneurship to Africa, he decides to create a new kind of African university.
  • 1998: Patrick Awuah, Nina Marini and graduate students from UC Berkeley conduct a feasibility study for a new private university in Ghana.
  • 1999: Ashesi University Foundation is founded by Patrick Awuah and Nina Marini 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. Ashesi's initial curriculum is developed with faculty advisors from Swarthmore College, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.
  • 2002: Ashesi University opens its doors in a rented house converted to classrooms, with a pioneering class of 30 students.
  • 2005: Pioneer class graduates.
  • 2006: Ashesi students elect first woman university student government president in Ghana’s history.
  • 2007: A UC Berkeley study finds that local and multinational employers rate Ashesi and Ashesi Graduates #1 in Ghana in Quality of Curriculum, Career Preparation, Communication Skills, Maturity, Professional Skills and Ethics.
  • 2008: Students vote to adopt Examination Honor Code - Africa’s first. Ashesi attains its first year of operational financial sustainability, as fees from students who can afford to pay cover annual operating expenses. Capital Campaign for new campus begins.
  • 2009: Construction starts for permanent campus in Berekuso.
  • 2011: New campus completed—on schedule and on budget ($6.4M). Enrollment tops 500 as Vice President of Ghana inaugurates campus.
  • 2012: The MasterCard Foundation partners to provide $13M in Ashesi scholarships to students from 11 African countries.
  • 2013: Groundbreaking for construction on new engineering building where Ashesi will educate engineers to design innovative infrastructure and products for Africa.
  • 2015: Ashesi welcomes its first cohort of engineering students. Click here to see a timeline of progress in developing our engineering program, from groundbreaking to accreditation.
  • 2018: The President of Ghana presented Ashesi University with a Presidential Charter, which grants Ashesi independence as a degree-granting institution.
  • And Ashesi reached another major milestone. For the first time, 1,000 students call Ashesi home.
  • 2019: Ashesi University Foundation celebrates its 20-year anniversary.

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 symbolizes 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.


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’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 wholly committed. He then realized, “This really is the beginning!” But the name Ashesi is not only about its founder’s inspiration. It is 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.