Following up Kome's comment on the "Who Needs an Education" post last week and given that the state of tertiary education in Nigeria is a topic we're particularly interested in, we thought it would be nice to discuss this further (you can vote on this through your participation in this discussion but we hope you deem it a worthy cause too). In case you weren't convinced by the afore-mentioned post, we thought this Guardian Newspaper article put it in another perspective.
Nigerian universities and world ranking
THE latest worldwide universities' ranking shows that Nigerian universities have dropped out of reckoning because of the poor quality and scope of research conducted by indigenous academics. No Nigerian university featured on the world best 500 universities list. Indeed from the African continent, only the University of Cape Town, South Africa made the list. More embarrassing was the fact that even among the contending universities in Africa, the best Nigerian university was ranked number 44, trailing behind some universities in Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana.
Last year, five Nigerian universities were among the first 100 universities in Africa. This time, only four...their ascribed positions were embarrassing. While OAU came in a distant 44th position, UI, Nigeria's premier was #65, and Uniben #79. Unilag made an embarrassing 90th position. [No other universities featured.]
This should be bad news to the Nigerian government and educationists. It should also be bad news to Nigerian academics who, under the aegis of ASUU, are currently on strike over working conditions. The verdict of the ranking system speaks for itself. If Nigerian universities cannot feature among the best 500 in the world and are ranked from Position 44 downwards in Africa, then there is something fundamentally deficient in the system. What is the quality of research that goes on in the universities? Are there research opportunities and facilities in the universities? If there are, are these research findings published in reputable journals across the world? Does this not re-echo the call of our nation's eggheads that the universities need resuscitation through a massive injection of funds?
Numerous problems beset Nigerian universities. Inadequate funding, lack of commitment, poor or unavailable infrastructure, epileptic power supply, and paucity of funds to attend international conferences are some of the challenges which the average academic has to contend with. In the universities that are well ranked, funds are routinely available for scholars to attend conferences where their findings and contributions to knowledge are presented and discussed. Also, because of the sound quality of research their essays are accepted and published in international reputable journals.
The Nigerian academic is not so lucky. He is entitled to attend international conferences about once in two years. If he must attend other conferences, he is required to look for funding from other sources.
Universities need to be proactive in the areas of management and resource mobilization. Some Vice Chancellors are so parochial that they simply see the position as a reward for many years of service. They then fail to rise to the challenges of the office. Some Governing Councils also fall into the same trap. Endowment funds and donations from wealthy patrons apart from government subvention are other sources of income for universities. For example, it should be possible for corporate organisations to provide seed money, invested in bonds, securities and real property in form of endowments on behalf of the universities. This was part of the intention behind the Education Tax Fund. Sadly, this has become another bureaucratic waste pipe.
The world ranking of Nigerian universities ought to be a wake-up call to all stakeholders, including the State and Federal Ministries of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the universities.
So how can we solve the problem? I know this is highly hypothetical, seeing as the first thing that needs to be done is a due diligence on the state of Nigerian tertiary education. But given what we know, what are some practical steps that you would recommend be taken by the administrators of these universities, given that they cannot obtain an increase in funds from the FG anytime soon? We're interested in "little ideas" about how (1) we, (2)the universities, and (3)the government, can most efficiently improve Nigeria's universities.