Balancing university licence with academic excellence

The appetite for university education has increased the need for more universities to be established in the country.
Establishing more universities come with its own challenges. For instance, Kogi government recently got the clear to open one more university in Kabba.
When fully operational, that would make it the third state-run university in Kogi, having previously established Prince Abubakar Audu University in Anyigba, and Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara.
Kogi joins elite club of states with multiple state-run universities. Delta has four namely, Delta University of Science and Technology, Ozoro, University of Delta, Agbor, Dennis Osadebe University, Asaba and Delta State University, Abraka.
Ogun has three namely Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology Abeokuta, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) Ijebu Ode, and Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ayo Iwoye.
While Delta and Ogun can be said to be financially buoyant enough to run four universities, can the same be said of a state like Kogi?
In the last 43 years, in line with its mandate, National Universities Commission (NUC) has also licensed 57 state-government run universities.
Given that River State university of Science and Technology, (RUST) started operation in 1980 as the first state-owned university in the country this is can be considered massive.
As the state universities multiply, so do privately-owned ones. On May 15, 2023 NUC out licensed of 37 more new private universities.
The exercise increased the number of such universities in the country to 148. This is an astronomical increase given that the first of such university in the country, Igbinedion University was licensed in October 1999.
The rate at which these universities have grown has divided stakeholders in the sector.
While one school of thought contends that it opens high education opportunities to youths, another says it could lead to bastardisation of university education where little attention is paid to infrastructure, faculty manpower and quality of graduates.
Mr Babatunde Omole, former National Moderator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), said that there was nothing wrong in establishing more universities considering the growing population of university education aspirants.
‘“It is not out of place for us to have more universities all over the country, the more we grow in population, the more we need education facilities.
‘“The more also we need health care facilities, and the more we need some infrastructure to accommodate our growing population.
“This is very pertinent; it is not something out of place for us to have more citadel of learning.
“The unfortunate thing is that most of the universities granted licenses operate more for profit than as a social responsibility’’, he said.
Omole said that focusing on more universities in the place of quality could be counter-productive as this might lead to the commercialisation and monetisation of university education.
Corroborating this is Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, Secretary-General, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), who said that establishing more universities was a reflection of demand for university education.
Ochefu said the country should be more worried about the quality of the universities being registered and whether they have enough staff to ensure that global best practices were met.
“Establishing new universities is a matter of demand and like I said we are at nine per cent of higher education participation rate against the global average of 30 per cent.
“We still need more universities to cater for our needs and if you look at the type of universities that are being licensed these days we are moving more towards specialised universities.
“If you go to India and China that have far more universities than us, their universities are specialised are and growing by the day.
“They have universities for women, universities for law, Economics, Accounting and many more. This is because each of these disciplines has become so specialised that each sub-specialty is a full-fledged discipline in its own right.
“So if you set up a university of media and communication studies, you can imagine how many faculties and departments you can have from that discipline alone,’’ he said.
Ochefu added that globally, technology has made teaching easier as a teacher does not have to be physically in the classroom before teaching adding that it is important for Nigeria to key into that trend.
Also, Speaker, National Youth Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN), Usman Shagari, canvassed more universities to accommodate the growing numbers of youth coming out from secondary schools.
Like Ochefu and Omole, he has a caveat: “It is also critical to ensure that quality is not compromised and that the system is made affordable to the common man.
“In essence, quality educational system is fundamental to development of the youth and this should be look into before issuing licenses to new universities,” he said.
A final year student of the Benue State University Makurdi, Eneh Edoh, said the government must focus more on funding and providing resources to ensure that existing universities expanded their infrastructure to increase their carrying capacity.
“I do not think there is any need for more universities because some universities cannot boast of quality and adequate infrastructure.
“Some universities’ lecture halls are not big enough to accommodate the students as many students sit outside while lectures go on inside the auditorium this is not to talk of laboratories.
“The country should focus in making universities world class institutions, fund them and provide more resources to facilitate teaching and learning universities,” she said.
Similarly, Mr Noah Emmanuel, National President, Nigerian Non-Governmental Association For Literacy Support Services (NOGALSS), said universities must strongly focus on academic excellence, faculty qualifications, infrastructure development and curriculum relevance.
“In recent times, Nigeria has witnessed a significant increase in the number of universities across the country.
“While the expansion of educational institutions is a positive development, it is equally crucial to ensure that the quality of education provided meets the required standards.
“It is vital to ensure that the establishment of new universities is accompanied by a strong focus on academic excellence, faculty qualifications, infrastructure development, and curriculum relevance,” he said.
Emmanuel advised that proliferation of universities should not compromise the standard of education, adding that it has the potential to jeopardise the competence and employability of graduates, as well as the overall reputation of the country’s educational system.
He called for a comprehensive approach to address the challenges associated with the proliferation of universities such as strengthening regulatory mechanisms, enhancing accreditation processes, and promoting effective quality assurance frameworks.
A former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, says it was unfair to criticise the establishment of more universities.
Rasheed, allayed the fears that many graduates of the newly licensed universities were not employable, saying Nigeria’s university curricular were designed to meet international standards.
“In Nigeria, we have excellent universities, excellent programmes and those that are not very excellent. But you see also, they are the same across the world.
“I am happy with the quality of education in Nigeria, although there are challenges and this is why we keep doing our best to get things right; we shall continue to improve on the quality,” he said.
Rasheed said rather than being in excess Nigeria would still require no fewer than 500 universities in the next three years to create more access for undergraduate students.
“In a country of 220 million people with only 2.3 million enrollment in the entire university system which is one per cent of the country’s population, the number of universities we have is not adequate.
“In Nigeria, 62 per cent of our population is below the age of 25; 70 per cent is below the age of 30, yet only 2 million are in the universities the students in private universities’’, he said.
He called for an increase in university enrollment from 2.3 million to about 5 million in order to give opportunities to students to have access to university education.
Rasheed, while comparing Nigerian statistics with that of the USA, said America was just about 50 per cent higher than Nigeria in terms of population but has about 6,000 universities.
“India has over 4,000 universities, Indonesia has over 200 universities, Argentina with about 25 million people has over 200 universities in their country.
“I believe that education should not just be a privilege; it should be a right. People should be encouraged to go to the university and the only way to do this is to spread these universities,’’ he said.
Observers say the most important factor should be the quality of the products of the university system and providing the required working environment, including salaries and infrastructure for academic, non-academic staff and students alike. (NANFeatures)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.