SSANU: Govt to invest more on education sector
Faborode: It is a vicious cycle
NUT: No parent wants his child to be used as a guinea pig
Nigerians, especially key stakeholders in the nation’s education sector, are shocked over the poor ranking of Nigerian universities globally, accusing the government of killing the system
oncerns and mixed-feelings have continued to be raised over the poor global ranking of Nigerian universities, where none of the universities ranked among the top 1,000 ivory towers in the world.
This is as key stakeholders in the nation’s education project have expressed worry over the standard and quality of Nigeria’s university education, bogged down by gross inadequate funding, dearth of facilities and laboratory equipment, low profile research and insufficient academic staff in the professorial and doctoral cadres.
In the 2020 World University Rankings released recently by the Centre for World University Rankings, none of the over 174 Nigerian universities (federal, state and private) ranked among the first 1,000 out of the 2,000 universities ranking worldwide.
On the ranking table, the first Nigerian university to make the 2,000 list is the University of Ibadan (UI), which placed 1,163rd position, which was followed by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) as number 1,882, leaving behind only 118 universities away from the bottom of the list of 2,000 universities.
The two Nigerian universities came behind three South African universities – the University of Cape Coast, which ranked 268th; the University of KwaZulu-Natal (477th); and the University of Johannesburg (706th); while the other African university; the Cairo University, Egypt is the 558th on the list, as well as the Makerere University, Uganda, which was established in the same 1948 as Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, by the British colonial government, which is 923rd best university in the world.
The two Nigerian universities were said to have been ranked among the best 2,000 universities due to variables relating to their research performance, where the University of Ibadan had 1,101 with a total score of 69.4, while Nsukka had 1,805 with a total score of 66.2 points.
But, worried by this development, the Secretary-General of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) and former Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Michael Faborode, described the dilemma of the Nigerian university system “as that of a vicious cycle.”
According to the Professor of Agricultural Engineering, what the country is witnessing in its university education was the result of its low investment in human capital development that translates to low benefit from knowledge and innovation, and resulting to low national development.
Faborode, who lamented that Nigeria was only reaping what it sowed, however, traced the poor ranking to actions and inactions of policy makers that have continued to despise knowledge and academia.
He said: “It is a vicious cycle. National plans, national discourse and rhythmic coordination of the economy ignore academia and research contributions. Education is not valued, the institutions are ignored, underutilised and despised just because they stand for truth and evidence. Thus, how can they rank highly in the world, when even their local relevance is not appreciated and laboured for?”
Also piqued by the poor ranking, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), which pointed out that the World University Rankings considered many indices to determine where universities are placed on the ladder, however, listed such variables to include teaching and research factors, internationalisation and knowledge transfer.
Against this backdrop, the union expressed regrets that no public university in Nigeria could make the list when they are perpetually on strike and bogged down by industrial unrest.
The Public Relations Officer of the union, Abdussobur Salaam traced the persistent industrial unrest in the university system to insensitivity of government towards university development, neglect of the system and poor funding, as well as de-marketing of the institutions by stakeholders, among others.
“This has to do with lack of facilities and a conducive teaching and research environment. The government must do more than it is currently doing in terms of improved allocation to the education sector, which is presently at below five per cent of the annual budget. This is a great disservice to the entire nation and with far reaching implications on the education system,” he said.
As a way forward, he said the cost of governance, the humongous amounts spent to fund the executive and legislature, as well as the profligacy and waste in the system should be checked for the government to spend more on the educational sector.
According to SSANU, with increased funding to the universities, there would be improvement in facilities, infrastructure and amenities, as well as improved student-staff ratio, and boost of workers’ morale.
Salaam also knocked some university management for corruption and mismanagement of the resources or funds allocated to the institutions, and for unimaginable lack of innovation and creativity on the part of university administrators, translating into the poor income generation for the universities.
To him, given the poor level of internationalisation of Nigerian universities, none of the ivory towers could be ranked high since recruitment and appointment processes in the institutions are localised and ethnicized.
The union added: “World rankings take note of the numbers of international students and staff in a university. Are our universities international in outlook or are they national in outlook in the real sense? Most employees of our universities are employed from the ethno-geographical space where the universities are sited and all this has heavily de-marketed the universities in global rankings.
“As long as we maintain such unwritten, but systemised and localised identities for our universities, we should say goodbye to international outlook. And, without an international outlook, we should also forget about the world class ranking of our universities.”
According to him, this period of the COVID-19 pandemic should be a time to come up with groundbreaking research, innovations and ideas to fight the virus.
SSANU, which insisted that all hands be on deck to fix the university system, added that the government also needed to be more proactive in preventing situations where university-based unions have to declare strikes to press home their agitations.
The various staff unions, Salaam noted, must also desist from using strike as a last resort to settling industrial disputes, lamenting that the institutional damages incessant strikes have caused to the fabrics of the system could only be imagined in terms of reputation and ranking of the universities.
Towards this end, the union, which spoke of the need for a new searchlight to be beamed at knowledge transfer as a major index for university ranking, however, argued further that how relevant are research outputs from the university system to the Nigerian industry?
“This COVID-19 pandemic is a period in which our researchers should prove themselves relevant and indispensable in finding solutions to the multi-faceted problems the pandemic has thrown up. University researchers and scholars must not be self-limiting because the government is not funding the system. The universities should be able to improve links with industry through innovations, inventions and consultancy services,” Salaam added.
Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has blamed the unimpressive ranking of Nigerian universities on the failure of the Federal Government to make education its priority in the scheme of national development.
According to ASUU, if the government had paid attention to the union’s several calls over the years to provide an enabling environment for education, especially tertiary institutions across the country, Nigerian universities would have been better placed on the world ranking scale.
The Chairman of the University of Ibadan chapter of ASUU, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, however, lamented that even UI and UNN, which presently led other Nigerian universities in the global rankings, could not make the top 1,000 universities.
According to ASUU, the ranking had vindicated its struggle to make the government commit not less than 26 per cent of the national budget to education, but that the Federal Government-led by President Muhammadu Buhari had only succeeded in reducing this year’s budget to about six per cent.
The union bemoaned: “ASUU has been drawing the government and Nigerians’ attention to the rot in the tertiary education system and was proven right by the 2012 Needs Assessment conducted by the Federal Government. The ranking revealed the personal and dogged efforts of research output by academics at the University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria to position Nigeria on the global map.
“ASUU has been on strike since March so that the government could address issues of revitalisation fund, Earned Academic Allowances, visitation panel to universities, the proliferation of universities and issues about their governance, as well as speedy conclusion of the renegotiation of 2009 agreement, but nothing has been done to resolve the issues.”
But, rather than resolving the issues and returning sanity to the university system, some stakeholders, blamed the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige for threatening to sack the lecturers and for refusing to enroll in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
As part of the way forward, ASUU urged Nigerians to join hands with the union in the call on the Federal Government to urgently inject more funds for revitalisation of public universities so that Nigerian universities will be able to compete effectively globally, and for their products to be respected across the world with their certificates.
Expressing disenchantment over the sliding fortune of the nation’s university system, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Prof. Ademola Dasylva, however, noted that so many things were not right with the country.
According to the don, the contraption called Nigeria has been breeding viruses that render it incapacitated on all sides, including the education sector.
“It is unfair to expect so much from the Nigerian university system when the government merely pays lip service, and deliberately runs down and demoralises the academics, as the same government turned deaf ears to improved funding for teaching, research and infrastructure development,” he regretted.
Dasylva, who insisted that the nation could not isolate the issue of Webometric global ranking of Nigerian universities from the whole crisis bedeviling the country, hinted that we cannot expect the same universities to compete with their counterparts in Europe and America.
“Those societies are serious; as developed as they are, education still remains their priority. And, that speaks volume, but here in Nigeria, the so-called agencies that are meant to facilitate the functions of the universities constitute the major clogs on the wheel of progress,” he added.
He said for instance, the University of California has a budget of $39.8 billion for the 2020 session (about N15.4trillion), while the entire Nigeria has a N10 trillion budget for 2020.
According to him, the University of California does not need to build new schools, power plants, water plants or hospitals, and they do not need to employ thousands of doctors and teachers, construct hundreds of kilometres of roads or build new seaports; but all they do is fund education and research.
He said: “The Nigerian rulers have not the faintest idea of what a university really is. Now, the so-called Nigerian universities have just added six more, including the one for the police and a separate one for the military. Each of the new universities was given N2 billion to take off, but what does N2 billion translate to in U.S Dollars.
“The total expenditure of UI in a year is about $30 million. That is the amount spent by the library of a small university in the United States. If we realise that education services and equipment are denominated in Dollars, we will appreciate the instability that the system suffers as a result of currency volatility. We do not have an education supportive product system.
“How then do you expect Nigerian universities to do more than they are already doing? On a more serious note, the Nigerian Government at federal and state level must get serious, wake up and rise to the occasion. Enough of the blame games, and there must be in place a five-year strategic plan at government level and at each university, goal setting strategies, expectations, outcomes and deliverables as it is done elsewhere.
“We try as much as possible to do that at the University of Ibadan, and I guess it must have contributed significantly to its current position on the world ranking. Unfortunately, what use is a strategic plan no matter how lofty, if it is not backed up with adequate funds to drive such great ideas and launch the university to a more impressive ranking. All stakeholders should wake up to the reality, and collectively pool resources together and ensure adequate funding for the universities.”
On his part, the Dean of School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Gbadebo Odewumi, noted that the poor ranking of Nigerian universities on the world scale is as a result of the difficulty to meet the conditions set for the rating criteria.
For instance, he attributed the low rating of Nigerian universities to one major factor, which is the lack of international mix of students and academic staff in the institutions, adding that Nigeria institutions will continue to score low on the scale of ranking due to its agenda of indigenising staff and students of the universities in the local areas.
Since internationally diverse faculty would bring about a better university ranking, Odewumi hinted that a situation in which more than 70 per cent of staff and students are reserved for the indigenes of that state or locality where the university is situated, is not only healthy, but also that such concept will continue to narrow university development.
With the agenda of indigenising the system in terms of staff appointments and students’ admission, the don pointed out that the universality of universities had been brutally assaulted. To him, many universities in South African countries are having Nigerians as Vice-Chancellors and Deans, but that cannot be possible in this country.
Besides, Odewumi noted that the poor wage of Nigerian academics as another inhibiting factor cannot attract scholars from other African countries, not to mention scholars from the developed world to Nigerian universities.