- Universities to take lead in research, innovation for national growth
Given the low ranking of Nigerian universities globally, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), for two days, assembled university eggheads to address the challenges and chart a way forward. KAYODE OLANREWAJU reports
Varsities to ensure lecturers acquire PhD – Bogoro
Workshop to deepen varsities’ consciousness, push frontiers
University eggheads and key stakeholders in the nation’s tertiary education system for two days last week converged on Lagos to brainstorm and share thoughts on critical issues and challenges of low ranking of Nigerian universities globally.
The two-day workshop facilitated by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and tagged: “Capacity Building Workshop for Beneficiary Institutions” is to support the university system in providing and building the relevant skills needed by them to operate in the 21st Century.
The workshop is part of a series of programmes the agency has consciously identified for the public tertiary institutions in the country as part of strategies to reposition the universities as catalyst for national rebirth and development.
Stakeholders at the workshop, which took place at the Marriot Hotel, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, include top management of TETFund, former Vice-Chancellors and Vice- Chancellors across Nigerian public universities and lecturers, among others.
The theme of the workshop, “Requirements for Strengthening Nigerian Universities for Higher Global Ranking and Knowledge Economy,” according to the organisers was mainly to harness and incubate ideas aimed at refocusing the university system for better performance and global recognition.
Led by the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro; participants at the workshop were the Chairman of TETFund Board of Trustees, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam; Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr. Chris Mayaki, who represented the Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed; former Vice-Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Emeritus Professor Olufemi Bamiro; former Executive Secretary of NUC, Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola; former Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello; the Programme Coordinator and former Vice-Chancellor of LASU, Prof. Lanre Fagbohun. Vice-Chancellors at the two-day event include Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe of the University of Lagos; Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede of Obafemi Awolowo University; University of Benin Vice- Chancellor, Prof. Lillian Salami, among many others. Various papers were presented at the workshop by renowned schools including Distinguished Professor Okebukola, who presented the Lead Presentation on “Overview of Global University Ranking and the Place of Nigerian Higher Education System in Knowledge Economy.”
Also, Emeritus Professor Bamiro presented the second Lead Presentation on “The Roles of Relevant Research Infrastructure and the Impact of Innovative Research Output on Ranking and Competitiveness of Universities;” while Dr. Biodun Saliu’s paper focused on “Repositioning the University Curriculum for Graduate Employability and Global Relevance: NUC Strategic Reform.”
Other thematic areas are “Innovations, Technological Transfer and Blending Learning in Nigerian Universities: The Way Forward for Global Competitiveness” by Dr. Ade Mabogunje; “Funding Sustainability, Resources Mobilisation and Deployment as Pillars of University Ranking” by Prof. Jibrila Dahiru Amin; and “International Outlook, Partnerships and Collaborations and Global Universities Ranking” by Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello; “Charting a Roadmap for the Global Competi-
tiveness of Nigerian Universities: Beyond Rhetoric and Intercultural Environment,” while discussants at the two-day intellectual engagements were selected among scholars from various universities across the country.
Setting the tone of the two-day capacity building workshop, which was held between November 22 and 23, Prof. Bogoro, in his keynote address, titled: “Requirement for Strengthening Nigerian Universities for Higher Global Ranking,” however, condemned the global low ranking of Nigerian universities, saying it is “embarrassing and unacceptable.”
According to him, the workshop, which will be in series, will also hold in Abuja and other locations in the country in the next few months, as part of chains of programmes the agency has consciously identified and mapped out for public tertiary institutions to raise the profile of research, innovation and development in the nation’s ivory towers.
Expressing displeasure that Nigerian universities today are not doing well in the Global Ranking of Universities and are not known to have been, the Executive Secretary said based on the World Ranking Review (W.E.N.R), out of about four selected different rankings across the world – the CNT Leiden Ranking; Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking; QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Ranking and Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking, universities from the United States, United Kingdom and Europe generally dominate the list of rankings. Bogoro pointed out that the QS 2021 Ranking mostly featured universities Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Cal Tech, Cambridge, ETH Zurich, Imperial College, UCL and the University of Chicago as top 10 highest ranking universities in the world.
According to him, in the Time Higher Education (THE) ranking for the same period in which the University of Ibadan topped the list for Nigeria universities, ranking 401-500th on THE 2022 table.
Other Nigeria universities that ranked among the top 1,000 universities on the THE 2022 table are the University of Lagos that ranked 501- 600 and Covenant University, Ota, which also placed 601 – 608 on the table. “In the 2021 THE table, Lagos State University (LASU) ranked 501-600 and was second to the University of Ibadan,” he added.
Bogoro recalled the increasing performance of Asian universities in the world ranking table, with Tsinghua University China and the National University Singapore, making the first 20 list on the THE 2022 table.
“With regards to the increasing presence of Asian universities in the 2021 ranking of top 100 universities, Ben Sowter the, Director of QS ranking was quoted as saying that it reflects the increasing competitiveness of the global higher education landscape, a statement of hope and encouragement for other institutions and nations across the world,” he noted.
The Executive Secretary, who traced the performance of Nigerian universities in recent times to interventions from TETFund, said the situation had improved as some universities now ranked among 1,000 in the world.
“But we should not go to sleep as we need to sustain the tempo,” he said, adding that the agency over the years has invested and disbursed huge resources, funds and materials to various tertiary institutions with the aim of uplifting the standard of the universities to meet with global best practices.
The Executive Secretary insisted therefore that Research and Development should be given the proper attention they deserve through institutionalisation of R & D with the optimism that the National Research Foundation would one day be established in the country.
Bogoro listed some identified problems hindering the progress and performance of Nigerian universities in the global ranking of world universities to include poor investment by some arm of government in the development of universities, decaying infrastructure; corruption in the public university system, with high number of mushroom universities not worthy of status of a university; poor attitude of Nigerian lecturers to teaching and research, as well as large numbers of students at the undergraduate level and limited financial and physical resources.
Others, according to him, are low research out-puts; low performance on international linkages and collaborations; loss in quality of faculty due to brain drain of lecturers and brilliant students to foreign institutions.
However, he said the workshop was primarily organised to address the highlighted problems and many others, but expressed optimism that the workshop would reposition universities to be competitive and to take the lead in research and innovation to promote national growth and economy.
Besides, he said Nigerian university must develop collaborative partnership with industries, foreign universities, linkages, and donor agencies in multiple capacities that increase funding for research, teaching and other essential facilities, as well as identify strong programmes and leverage on them through endowment of chairs in medicine, engineering, pharmacy, or other fields of science and technology.
“In as much as we want Nigerian universities to grow the ranking and thrive, we more importantly desire that our universities will mature and produce results for national development and impact.
“It is my sincere hope that workshops of this nature will continue to stimulate knowledge sharing, understanding, growth and excellence in Nigerian universities and position them to be competitive globally,” Bogoro said.
“It is only by doing that the nation could transit and be part of the knowledge economy and competitive,” he stressed, noting that Nigerian universities must as a matter of urgency put strong measures in place to ensure that all lecturers must acquire Doctorate of Philosophy as an essential requirement for teaching and research; universities must develop strong Democratic Leadership in their administration.
As a way forward, Bogoro said the Nigerian universities must be repositioned to be competitive and to take the lead in research and innovation in order to promote the growth of the national economy.
Towards this end, he noted that TETFund as part of its strategies established 12 Centres of Excellence for Research and Development in different thematic areas in different universities to promote; stimulate and deepen research for development, assuring stakeholders that additional 12 centres would soon be established for that purpose.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of TETFund Board of Trustees (BOT), Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim- Imam, lamented the status of Nigerian universities on the global ranking chart and said “this is unacceptable,” however, tasked professors in Nigerian universities to do more in research and development.
“I want to challenge our professors that TETFund wants more from them. We are no longer comfortable with this ranking position globally. We are the giant of Africa, but where we are at present is disturbing.”
While calling the Nigerian university system with the mandate of teaching, research and community service to reinvent itself, the BOT chair also challenged the system to interrogate “what are we doing wrong as a country, and what we are not doing with a view to providing workable solutions to move the country forward.”
He described as shameful that Nigeria, as an oil producing country, is still importing petroleum products, even as he expressed regrets that the country in the 21st Century is a consuming nation and producing nothing, while poverty and insecurity are high in the land.
To change this narrative, Ibrahim-Imam, therefore, said: “We need cutting-edge research, innovation, technology and development from Nigerian universities for the country to get it right.
NUC, Executive Secretary, Prof. Rasheed, who was represented by Dr. Chris Mayaki, Deputy Executive Secretary, said the Commission had already aligned itself with TETFund in its quest to transform the nation’s university landscape, but bemoaned the low ranking of Nigerian universities on the global ranking table.
However, he noted that most universities in Nigeria in the last three years have improved in their ranking, against what was obtainable before. The Programme Coordinator, Prof. ‘Lanre Faghohun (SAN) said the workshop was facilitated to improve on the global competitiveness of Nigerian universities, as well as to deepen the consciousness of pushing the frontiers of knowledge.
On the expected outcomes, he pointed out that the workshop would further deepen the understanding of what is required to be the best for global ranking; raise the consciousness of universities about what they think they need to do to stimulate research and development for national development; as well as enhance the ability of the universities to perform better on the ranking tables.
Fagbohun, therefore, promised that the outcome or recommendations collated at the end of the workshop would be published into a book format to form the cardinal thrust for the universities.
Bogoro added that as a developing nation, Nigeria’s education sector is evolving and growing steadily with several challenges which are not unexpected of an emerging or developing state.
Describing education as a critical ingredient for nation building and which has continued to be a beacon for the sustainable existence of society and has been identified as the panacea for the survival of the human race, he noted that the very fact that the survival of humanity is dependent on knowledge makes the need for education indispensable.
Consequently, he said nations and citizens were compelled to either develop, or remain as second- class nations that would continuously depend on and serve other nations that have advanced through learning and research.
Bogoro added: “This has remained the basis for our desire as a nation to continue to invest in education and learning, particularly at the tertiary level, until we are able to catch up with the advanced society.
“Universities have played a critical role in the progress and development of all advanced nations.
Through the wider impact of research, universities have transformed the lives of people and nations.” Since universities remain big players in the economies of advanced nations and indeed developing nations as well, research in universities has provided ideas on which future prosperity will be founded.
Bogoro, who listed some of the different indicators, approaches and methodologies employed in the assessment and ranking of universities to include teaching, research, citations, international outlook, industry income, academic and employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.
The Executive Secretary noted that in Africa, it is mostly universities in South Africa and Egypt that have continued to feature relatively well in the world ranking tables, while the performance of Nigerian universities still remains far below expectation.
He, therefore, described the situation as unfortunate and worrisome, saying it calls for reflection and action on the part of the government, the Nigerian intelligentsia and indeed the Nigerians.
“It is challenging in the sense that the success of our universities is tied to the progress and development of the nation. If the Asian countries were able rise to such an enviable place along the ranking of world universities, nothing stops Nigerian universities from making similar progress if they are so determined,” he added.