Transforming university education in Nigeria – Part 2

Check for Part 1 before continuing this


The nexus in the above paradox with the issue of commodification of
education is not far-fetched. In a 2017 report of the National
Universities Commission (NUC) titled, ‘The State of University Education
in Nigeria,’ it was reported that the Nigerian university system had a
relatively impressive outing in the core mandates of teaching, research
and community service. Better performance would however have been
recorded if a number of obstacles did not impede progress. The top three
challenges reported by all universities when data were pooled are:
funding (89%), infrastructural deficit (81%), staff shortage (71%) and
poor reading culture (71%). The other challenges are as detailed in the
bar chart below.

As things currently stand, our tertiary institutions are not likely
to midwife, the socio-political, economic and technological
transformation so badly required after over five decades of independence
and self-governance, unless the sector is appropriately funded. Neither
the knowledge-driven transformations of East and Southeast Asia, nor
the historic development of states like Japan, South Korea, Singapore,
Hong Kong etc.; not excluding Latin American Newly Industrialised
Countries (NICs) such as Brazil and Argentina are not imminent upon us.
This is so despite the exponential growth in the number of tertiary
institutions (161 universities) established by the Federal and State
governments as well as by missionary and other private entities.

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Despite the unfair nature of the global matrix for measuring
innovation in relation to Africa, by any measure Nigerian universities
are not associated with the generation of even marginal degree of
intellectual property asserts such as patents and or high value
copyright and other reckonable intellectual capitals. This dismal record
speaks to the quality of our tertiary institutions and accounts for
their permanent occupancy of the basement level of global high rise of
ratings of universities. As a system and service provider, our tertiary
education is often not aligned to meet our domestic challenges or
imperatives, including the needs of industry, labour and the private
sector. Foreign experts are still imported to provide consultancies on
subjects our institutions have several decades old departments and
faculties. This is an indication of not just the problem of a misaligned
curricula but it is symptomatic of more fundamental dislocations. I
will argue that the rot in our tertiary education is largely a result of
the failure to recognize education as a national priority, as a tool of
socio-economic development and as a veritable weapon for social
engineering. Education is a mega sector with cross-cutting and
trans-sectoral utility. Tertiary education must not only be allowed to
flourish unfettered and unhindered, it must also be provided with the
resources, infrastructure and facilities it urgently requires to fulfil
its mandate in the 21st century. It is a social investment that is
measured by timeless, open-ended and incalculable externalities.

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