The Problem With Nigerian University System

Posted on August 8, 2022

BY KAYODE ADEBIYI

I have been doing a lot of research on why we continually have problem with university education in Nigeria. Chief of our problem is funding. Just like every other system in Nigeria, over dependence on government for everything is killing our university education. I am yet to see any country in the world with a working university system that runs universities the way we run ours in Nigeria.

Universities in the United Kingdom and their yearly revenue:

Oxford – £2.5 b
Cambridge – £2.2 b
UCL – £1.5 b
Edinburgh – £1.1 b
Manchester – £1.0 b
Imperial – £1.0 b
King’s CL – £901m
Leeds – £791m
Birmingham – £716m
Sheffield – £715m
Bristol – £706m
Nottingham – £701m
Warwick – £688m
Glasgow – £687m
South’ton – £584m
Liverpool – £577m
Newcastle – £570m
Cardiff – £538m
Queen Mary – £483m
Exeter – £449m

Above is the total revenue/income of the top Universities in Britain per year.

Guess what, every dime you see above here is generated by these Universities on their own through income from student fees, government grants and research grants, as well as generating their own income through charitable fundraising, investments and business activities such as ‘spin-out companies.

Meanwhile, only about a quarter of thier income comes from UK student fees. The rest comes from higher fees paid by international students, charitable donations, and investment that Universities make.

I am going somewhere. Let’s break it down. What’s government grant? Government grants makes up about 30.6% of total revenue for most UK universities. Students fees is about 29.4%. Self-generated income is 20.4% and research grants about 19.6%. It varies with very little margin from University to university but generally speaking, this is the outlook of how universities generates income in the UK.

Therefore total revenue from non-governmental grants is 69.4% while grants from government is merely 30.6%. Therefore in a country that wants to maximise its university educational system, government’s contribution cannot be more than 35% at most.

We are in trouble with our university education system in Nigeria because we make universities totally dependent on government for its revenue and running cost. That’s an aberration!

We need a total disruption of our university education system. What we have always lacked is a leader with the political will to take tough decisions devoid of political correctness. We need to totally reform our university system and the recruitment process of Vice Chancellors.

We have VCs of public Universities behaving like State governors. Lame duck leaders, sitting down and expecting monthly draw down from the Federal government to pay salaries and enjoy the largesse of office and then wait for next month’s draw down. Our system of administration does not excite nor tax the ingenuity in any man. It makes people lazy.

University system has become an extension of our politics and ASUU is the political arm. It would take a total reform to unleash the dragon and let Professors proof their mettle as egg heads by leading from the front on how they can generate revenue for the running of our universities.

Recruitment of VCs must take the pattern of recruitment for a multinational where revenue targets are set and potential candidate must be able to proof how they would meet the revenue targets for their university or go bankrupt.

It’s the failure to reform our university system that gave rise to private universities. That’s why private/individually owned university is not popular in countries with a very solid public University system. The rich folks gave major grants to universities instead of thinking of starting their own. Its part of their charitable endeavour.

Imagine Chief Afe Babalola sinking every money he has spent on his private University, ABUAD on Ekiti State University in form of grant and endowment, In addition to Ekiti State government subvention to that university. How do you think Ekiti State University would look like today? Imagine Bishop Oyedepo sinking all the money he has invested in Covenant University in University of Ilorin. I can go on and on.

In addition, I am yet to see a country with a robust university system allowing students to attend universities almost for free like Nigeria. University education is not a universal basic education. Not everybody needs a university education to make it in life. That’s why you see a lot of Nigerian university graduate drop their certificate and then follow their passion in another area totally outside of what they studied. If you must have a university education, then you must be ready to pay for it.

Please, let’s not decieve ourselves that Nigerians can’t pay for university education. Nigerian students attending universities in the UK rose from 13,000 in 2018/19 to 21,305 during the 2020/21 academic session. Nigerians paid N152 billion in tuition into UK universities, and Nigeria is the largest overseas market for UK universities amongst other African nations.

We need to be deliberate about how we revamp our university system. We can’t continue doing the same thing everytime under different government, yet expected a different result. It is only in Nigeria that we see that obviously a system is not working, yet different government under different political parties keep reinforcing that flawed solution template to solve the same old problem. You don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that failure is a sure bet you will get.

Negotiation with ASUU is not what we need. They’ve been negotiating for over 30 years and nothing had come out of all the negotiations. Reason is that the federal government can never meet up with the kind of money to really cater for all the Universities.

Universities are not run that way. Government must hands of 60% of their involvement with university education, or give a moratorium of a 10 year withdrawal plan from University funding. Reduce funding every 2 years, recruit VCs that are forward looking and ready to work to get grants and endowment for his/her university. Let our public university be a tuition paying universities, strengthen professional certification for people with skill, and make it recognisable like ICAN does with accounting. This way people can be proud of their professionalism without a university degree, and be sure they can get a well paying job.

That way only people who really needed to attend a university would do so. Presently, my boss at work here in the UK has no university degree but he’s an experienced hand with a deep knowledge of his industry. He consults for government on reforms in the sector and an authority in his field. Under him, we have people with multiple degrees but we all defer to him because he knows his onions.

Presently, a lot of Nigerians with masters degree are abandoning their degree certificates and getting certification in Project Management, Agile, Business Analysis and getting into tech jobs that pays well. Nobody cares about what they studied at the University. What employers are looking and asking for is your certification in technology related field and your experience in that field to get employment.

I sincerely believe we can revamp this system because we have more to gain if we do or more to lose if we don’t.

©️ Kay Lord, 050822.

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