The Decline of Nigerian Universities

There is still insufficient investment in tertiary education. In what has become a scandalous annual embarrassment, Nigerian universities...

There is still insufficient investment in tertiary education.
In what has become a scandalous annual embarrassment, Nigerian universities struggled once again at the bottom of the table in the latest global ranking. In the 2014 University web ranking conducted by International Colleges and Universities (4ICU) and released only recently, University of Ilorin was adjudged the 20th best university in Africa and 1842nd in the world. University of Lagos was ranked second in Nigeria and 21st in Africa while Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, came third and ranked 26th in Africa.
The 4ICU, an international higher education search engine and directory that constantly reviews accredited universities and colleges across the world, ranked some 11,307 universities and colleges by web popularity in over 200 countries. Sadly, the poor scores by the most populous nation and the biggest economy in Africa reflected the consistent dismal performance in the past even when the universities were weighted on several other indicators.

The 2012/2013 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, for instance, presented a multi-faceted view of the relative strengths of the world's leading universities based on data covering four key areas of concern - research, employability, teaching and internationalisation. The rankings were compiled using six indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio, and reputational ranking by faculty area. Over 2,000 universities were considered, and 700 were ranked with the top 400 ranked individually, while others were ranked in groups. Unfortunately, while several universities in South Africa and Egypt made the rankings, no Nigerian university did.
This is not only a sad commentary on the state of our education, it has also internationalised the rot in our universities many of which produce graduates that can neither meet the demands of local employers nor compete in the global labour market. The result is the increasing army of unemployed and unemployable youths roaming the streets of major cities.

While inadequate funding has been one of the major problems of the education sector, policy makers have not demonstrated the will to devise a way of addressing this challenge. For instance, a 2012 World Bank table of the annual budgetary allocation to education by some selected countries placed Nigeria at the bottom, occupying the 20th position out of 20 countries selected. Also, of the N4.9 trillion 2013 budget, N426 billion was allocated to education, which is about 8.7 per cent of the total budget, most of which went to overhead. Rather than address this problem of funding, government has been preoccupied with establishing new universities to ensure federal character and sometimes for purely political reasons.
Ironically, virtually all the existing universities are plagued by outdated and poorly equipped libraries, poor teaching facilities, inadequate lecturers, decaying infrastructure, absence of internet facilities, and non-conducive learning environment. Perhaps the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led Panel report on challenges of public universities, better known as the Needs Assessment Panel, underscored the present cheerless and disturbing webometric rating. The report says, in part, that university library resources are mostly outdated and manual; and that no library in the public university system is fully automated. Other findings include the fact that less than 10 per cent of the universities “have video conferencing facility, while less than 20 per cent use interactive boards”. The report also noted that “more than 50 per cent don’t use public address systems in the lecture rooms/ theatre; Internet services are non-existent, or epileptic and slow.”

As we have consistently stated on this page, the poor performance is due mainly to insufficient public and indeed, private investment in education infrastructure. Therefore, better ways of funding our tertiary institutions must be found, while the universities also need to eliminate the waste in their systems. The world’s best universities have enormous cash with which they attract the best to their communities - from the latest technologies to the brightest professors. That is what Nigeria needs to reverse the embarrassing trend.


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