Thursday, 11th August 2022
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

Concerns over conversion of polytechnics to universities

By Iyabo Lawal
12 May 2022   |   3:44 am
Stakeholders have expressed concern over government’s resort to upgrading of polytechnics to universities, describing it as misplaced priority and unnecessary.

Polytechnic Ilaro gate

• It is misplaced priority, says ASUP
• Polytechnic critical to economic development, says expert

Stakeholders have expressed concern over government’s resort to upgrading of polytechnics to universities, describing it as misplaced priority and unnecessary.

Lagos State Polytechnic, Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State Polytechnic and Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara State, are some polytechnics that were upgraded to universities in recent times.

States like Abia and Delta also joined the fray. Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, was rechristened Delta State University of Science and Technology, while Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, was changed to Abia State University of Science and Technology. 

Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), and official of the Federal Ministry of Education, faulted the conversion, and likened the action to “taking a step forward and many steps backward.” 

Describing government’s action as a misplaced priority, ASUP National President, Anderson Ezeibe, said what is imperative at this time is to give the needed attention to existing public polytechnics by adequately funding them, providing requisite infrastructure and improving staff welfare.

He said: “The establishment of new polytechnics by the government or granting of licence to private operators for new ones is equally unnecessary at this time, as proliferation of polytechnics in the country would not translate to an automatic increment of access to polytechnic education by young Nigerians.”

Ezeibe said ASUP is not carried away by government’s upgrading of some polytechnics to university, as that was not the major issue to lecturers, as far as polytechnic education is concerned.

The main issue, he explained, is for government to look after existing institutions.
“So, let the government change if it likes the name or status of one school to another many times, the problems will remain the same if proper attention is not given to such schools,” he stressed.

Ezeibe, however, said there is nothing wrong if polytechnics are also allowed to award degrees like universities of technology are doing, as the Act establishing polytechnics makes provision for them to produce high-level manpower as universities are doing.

Executive Secretary, NBTE, Prof. Idris Bugaje, said: ‘‘We must stop this crave of converting polytechnics to universities. The universities are swallowing polytechnics. If you convert college of education to university, you are upgrading it, but if you convert a polytechnic to university, you are degrading it and this will not help the economy.

“While countries like China and Germany are giving priority to technical and vocational education and with China even converting universities to polytechnics because they know that is the future, we are now in the craze of turning our polytechnics to universities. We are having dearth of technicians while we are heading for a glut of university graduates.

“There should be paradigm shift. What we need to compete well at global level is to produce manpower that is skilled. We may not need a situation where you will be asking for five credits at General Certificate in Education level or somebody who scores 300 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

“If you have people who have the skills, get them in, brush up their talents and you may award them Skill Qualification Certificate. The Indians and Chinese doing welding jobs here, who says they have five credits in GCE?

“From 2023, the NBTE will not accredit any course in any polytechnic if there is no skill training programme on ground. We will not tolerate the running of programmes that are devoid of skills acquisition. Skills are now the currency of labour globally. If you are training somebody on Building Technology, take him to a live construction site to see what is happening,” he said.

Public Affairs analyst, Jimi Disu, described the trend of converting universities to polytechnics in Nigeria as a bad idea, as the nation needs more polytechnics than universities.

According to him, universities are structured for academics, while polytechnics are for practical training. In the same vein, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) condemned government’s action, saying government should empower the polytechnics instead of merging them with universities.

The union leader, Prof Anthony Umunna, said: “Britain is already a developed country and before now, they had polytechnics and colleges of technology separately from universities. Why can’t Nigeria empower polytechnics to run technological courses from Diploma to PhD level?

“What government is indirectly saying is that polytechnics alone are not doing well in Nigeria and need to be integrated into the university system, whereas it is universities that have not been doing well despite the huge sums of money spent on them by the government. The universities themselves need to be re-structured.”

In the same vein, an official in the Federal Ministry of Education, Kenneth Osuagu, noted that one of the effects of the conversion, will be the scrapping of National Diploma and Higher National Diploma programmes, as universities would not be able to produce those levels of students anymore.

He said: “It is like shooting yourself in the leg because you are reducing your capacity. They should rather increase their carrying capacity, enrol more students and improve on the facilities they have.”

He reminded that universities and polytechnics have different roles to play in the education system, adding that polytechnics were established to meet middle-level manpower needs of the economy.

“All over the world, the polytechnic sector is critical to economic development; it is not about conversion but performing the roles for which they were established. Polytechnic is a skill-oriented system, and when it is changed to university, that attribute could be lost. I think we should strengthen what we are doing and make sure we are doing it well. If a polytechnic is noted for one particular thing, local and foreign companies will be sourcing their staff from that institution.

“For instance, only one polytechnic in Nigeria trains students in underwater welding. So, if there is a burst oil pipe, it is only from that institution that the welders will be sought. Otherwise, they will be brought from other countries. So, polytechnics just need to look for a need in the society that they can meet.”

Instead of seeking an upgrade, he said polytechnics should continue their affiliate programmes, step up and produce more graduates.

“As the country’s population is increasing, so is the need for technical manpower. With the number of developmental projects across the country and advancement in technology, the polytechnics owe it to the country to produce the skilled workforce to handle these,” Osuagu added.

Quotes
“While countries like China and Germany are giving priority to technical and vocational education and with China even converting universities to polytechnics because they know that is the future, we are now in the craze of turning our polytechnics to universities. We are having dearth of technicians while we are heading for a glut of university graduates.

“There should be paradigm shift. What we need to compete well at global level is to produce manpower that is skilled. We may not need a situation where you will be asking for five credits at General Certificate in Education level or somebody who scores 300 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

“If you have people who have the skills, get them in, brush up their talents and you may award them Skill Qualification Certificate. The Indians and Chinese doing welding jobs here, who says they have five credits in GCE?

“All over the world, the polytechnic sector is critical to economic development; it is not about conversion but performing the roles for which they were established. Polytechnic is a skill-oriented system, and when it is changed to university, that attribute could be lost. I think we should strengthen what we are doing and make sure we are doing it well. If a polytechnic is noted for one particular thing, local and foreign companies will be sourcing their staff from that institution.