‘Nigeria needs strong political will to get its universities to world-class standard’
Former Executive Secretary of the. National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola has described the country’s university system as a “mere toddler” when viewed against its counterparts in advanced countries.
Okebukola, at the maiden convocation lecture of the Chrisland University, Abeokuta noted that despite the challenges, our universities can still rise to the top at an accelerated pace giving the right political commitment towards development.
The former NUC scribe who spoke on the theme, “Building a world-class university in Africa: The role of private universities” explained that becoming a member of the exclusive group of world-class universities is not achieved by declaration, rather by elite status conferred by the outside world on the basis of international recognition.
According to him, the country needs four complementary factors to build world-class universities.He listed the factors as high concentration of talents (staff and students), abundant resources to offer a rich, learning environment and to conduct advanced research.
The two others he said, were favourable governance features that encourages strategic vision, innovation and flexibility, that enables institutions to make decisions and manage resources without being encumbered by bureaucracy as well as sustained financial support with appropriate mix of accountability and autonomy.“Our universities also need to recognise that achieving world-class standards require a strong commitment to global best practices adapted to the local context.
“As part of the 60th independence anniversary celebration in October 2020, we should launch the Nigerian world-class university project such that by 1st October 2030, at least one of our institutions will emerge among world’s top 100.
Okebukola said, “A strong positive link has been established between the quality of students’ intake and the quality of graduates in an educational system. If quality of processing is held constant, the resultant of admitting poor quality secondary school leavers into the university system are graduates whose quality have a high chance of being compromised. Hence to shoot for five -star quality from the present one-star, the admission process through the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and post -UTME should move a notch or two higher in stringency.
“The universities should take the best from the large army of half baked secondary school leavers”.On private universities, the former NUC scribe said, “New grounds in research and development have been explored by private institutions, setting standards for the public. For instance, while the Ebola virus raged, public universities made feeble effort to support the national efforts to respond to the pandemic. Rising stoutly to the challenge and researching disease and its containment was Redeemers University, a private institution.. It sets a model of partnership in research and development that is now a global case study.”