The Editor of the Guardian Newspaper, Abraham Ogbodo (2016) writing on ASUU’s endless strikes in Nigerian universities stated that, which I quote,
“ Due to either bad strategy or convoluted vision, ASUU has muddled up the fundamental objectives of its struggles by drawing more attention to itself (as if the entire university system is all about the welfare of academic staff) than it is drawing to the copious fault lines in a system that is outdated on almost all parameters” Italics, mine . He continued,
“For instance, there is the much weightier issue of re-inventing the university curriculum to align instruction with production, such that products of the system would become value addition instead of value affliction to the world outside. Methodology has remained static. For effectiveness, there can be a partnership between the world of theory, which the university represents and the world of practice, which industry represents.”
On the need to recognize and welcome practical experience outside the university, he went on,
“… most of the abstract postulations in business and management studies for instance, would take concrete forms if an Aliko Dangote stood in a lecture theatre to teach a class of Business Administration students. This beautiful collaboration between theory and practice has not quite happened because ASUU is not wired to scale down to a subordinate role even when such tactical retreat is aimed at strategic long-term gains for the university system. With ASUU, it seems to be less about scholarship and so much about ego, intrigues and self-aggrandizement in the engagement process “
Also in his write up, he pointed out that one Franklyn Nlerum who lives outside the country commented on the obsolescence of progammes in Nigerian universities thus:-
“The relevance of the University to the society in Nigeria is doubtful. The content of most programmes and the extant pedagogy in our universities make university education in Nigeria almost worthless. I have been involved in ASUU.
“Upon experiencing further studies in Canada and the United States, I realised the huge gap between the developed countries and Nigeria as regards education. In the last 6 years, I worked with a Professor of Engineering, and a leader in ASUU, who hardly made any technical contribution to our work but was steep in politicking and criticizing others. How come Professors in Nigeria cannot provide valuable consultancies to every sector of the economy? We hardly read of research findings to deal with problems of our society. The focus is on becoming Vice Chancellors. The struggle to become Vice Chancellors has turned universities into ethnic enclaves”
Some people have argued for instance, Amuta (2009), that we are in the situation we found ourselves because we are running a system in which merit and extra hard work do not earn the academic staff more pay. For instance, a Nobel class genius would earn the same pay as his colleague who is an ordinary professor, if they happen to be on the same grade level.
According to Amuta, the race in our universities is to attain a chair to qualify for the applicable grade level. However, research and teaching effort should be geared towards excellence to attract substantial funding. This is what distinguishes the outstanding scholar from the ordinary teacher in the university.
The university he argues should operate in a free market environment, like in the United States where grants and funding from both private corporations and public sector are targeted at the most relevant scholars and research projects. Research and innovation become means of accessing these funds as well as of distinguishing one class of intellectuals from the other. A professor whose work is profound and relevant is more likely to occupy a chair endowed by a rich corporation, foundation or government programme. Such a professor can earn anything from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in personal emoluments, staff and facilities funding under the endowment.
The European system on the other hand has a long tradition of institutionalized intellectualism in which universities occupy a certain vantage position in the scale of priorities in the allocation of resources. The mutual respect between the state and universities is borne from the fact the universities have produced some of the most outstanding statesmen. He went to point out that,
“The Education Trust Fund (ETF) which a mandatory corporate levy in support of education is so diffusely disbursed that the universities do not get a commensurate share of what trickles into the fund. There is hardly any comprehensive legislation that compels companies to make definite budgetary allocations for research and development” and that,
“More often than not, our governments and companies prefer to patronise foreign institutions and consultants that are far inferior to the experts in our universities even for routine consulting assignments. Neither have we had the Nigerian state run by persons that have deep foundations in universities nor any proper intellectual exposure, seriously speaking. Therefore a certain degree of disdain describes the attitude of the Nigerian state and its functionaries to the universities”
On the intriguing question about University autonomy, Professor Babatunde Munir Ogunsanwo, during the 49th Inaugural Lecture at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in July 2009 opinioned that, the University Councils, rather than Government should negotiate salary for university staff with the Unions. This he believes will identify and reward hard working academic staff.
“Government,” he argued further, “has no business in negotiating salary for university staff because the latter are not employees of government. The responsibility to fix the salary of any university staff should be left strictly to the Governing Council of that university if we are sincere about our demand for university autonomy and academic freedom. The concept of unified salary structure for members of the academic staff is not only retrogressive but archaic and encourages indolence. Under this system, a hardworking, industrious and innovative academic staff would have to seek motivation elsewhere as there is no difference between his ‘take-home’ pay and that of a lazy colleague who will not accept any administrative responsibility but rather indulges in attending to his lectures a week or two before the commencement of an examination.”
Opeyemi (2009) in the same vein, questions the rationale for Government negotiating with one Union since no one Union can negotiate for all the Unions in the university and it will be difficult for Government to keep pace with demands from other Unions in other institutions like polytechnics, colleges of education, Monotechnics and post-primary schools.
He went to ask,
“If government were to sit every year to negotiate salaries with ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT, all in the universities, and then move to polytechnics to conduct the same negotiations with the different workers’ unions, then to colleges of education, down to primary schools, I suppose there will be no time for any other business for government. At any rate, why must government negotiate salaries with ASUU when it has no powers to directly hire and fire its members? In which other countries of the world does government sit down in like manner to negotiate university staff emoluments? And why ask for pay parity for state and federal government varsity academics when students of state and federal universities do not pay the same school fees?”
Characteristics of modern universities
For Nigerian universities to advance and attain favourable ratings, they must imbibe the characteristics of modern universities. The characteristics of modern universities entail the following:
• The curriculum in a modern university should be technologically driven
• There must be considerable impact of the university on the immediate community
• Curriculum offered should be relevant to market needs and designed to produce job-ready graduates. This means there should be involvement of professional bodies, advisory committees and appointing renown industry experts to ensure that the curriculum responds to the needs of industry, business and societal needs.
• The academic staff must have exposure to industry and ensure staff get industry experience and keep abreast of new developments in commerce, science and technology.
• The way teaching, learning and research would be conducted must recognize the requirements from industry.
• The university should be able to respond to the demands of the society by designing and offering short term courses, workshops, etc.
• The students are properly groomed to have strong communication and analytical skills
• The effectiveness of the curriculum offered by universities will be assessed by three factors:
• The employer satisfaction and the responses and impact of the graduates on industry
• The ability of the graduates to solve problems at hand and be creative and participate actively in innovation.
• The ability of graduates to start up their own businesses
The National Universities Commission has over the years evolved many useful criteria for assessing and accrediting programs in Nigerian universities. However, these criteria tended to place emphasis on required sizes and capacities of physical structures in the universities. The Commission must evolve performance indicators that would at the same time assess staff, students and the university. Inevitably, the Commission must evaluate the quality both research and post graduate degrees especially doctorate degrees awarded by Nigerian universities. There are 20 PI (Performance Indicators) that can be used to assess a truly modern University. These range from the caliber of its academic staff, deployment of IT facilities in learning and research, quality of its output and the impact of the institution and its products on the industry and immediate community. They are summarized as follows:
§ Employer satisfaction with graduates
§ Responsiveness to type of programmes run by the university
§ Job readiness of graduates
§ Utilizing technology in teaching, IT-integration and e-learning
§ Technological competence
§ Learning facilities such as ratio of students to computer work stations on campuses and hostels
§ Staff ability to be abreast of new technological developments
§ Number of staff with masters and PhD qualifications engaged in research
§ Industry exposure and experience of staff
§ Percentage of instructional/research staff affiliated to professional bodies
§ Percentage of research income over total income
§ Number of community problem-solving research projects
§ Number of established business ventures (partnerships, joint ventures and contracts)
§ Number of Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs), incubators and technology stations established