Specialised universities as the future of development
Although Nigeria’s specialised universities have been in the news for the wrong reasons, in this report Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal writes that the institutions may be the answers to the dearth of manpower in some key sectors of the nation.
She held her forlorn face in her fidgeting hands as beads of sweat broke through her forehead. Her bulky frame shook as she sobbed. Her colleagues held on to her as she struggled to free herself from their grip.
Nimi West was not bereaved. She had just been scammed, as she claimed by one of Nigeria’s government-approved university. She had been studying Business Administration in one of the country’s prestigious specialised university until she was told that the course was never approved in the institution by the government.
But she was not alone. Hundreds of Nigerian students have been “duped” by various tertiary institutions across the nation by offering courses they were not authorised to run.
Take for instance, the University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM), established on January 1, 1988, as a specialised university having metamorphosed from the defunct Federal University of Technology which was established in 1980; but deviated in 2010 when the Senate of the institution approved the establishment of the College of Management Sciences. The college was created in 2011 with two departments: Department of Business Administration as well as the Department of Accounting and Finance.
But apart from the UAM, there are hordes of other institutions biting more than they can chew. Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, ran courses like Arabic/Christian Religious Studies, Business Administration, Home Economics, Marketing, and Accountancy – an exercise in anomie.
Recently, the Federal Government had to bar some specialised institutions like Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta ( FUNAAB); Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi; and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, from offering courses not in their original mandate.
Other universities are: Federal University of Technology Akure ((FUTA); Federal University of Technology Owerri ( FUTO); Madibbo Adama University of Technology Yola; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology( LAUTECH) Ogbomoso; Abubakar Tafawa University of Technology Bauchi; and Bells University of Technology, Ota.
Early this year, the Federal Government warned specialised universities in the country which have been running programmes that were “antithetical to their mandates” to stop such with immediate effect.
It urged the schools to stick to the core mandates for which they were set up “and desist from running programmes which have no bearing to their names and foundation.”
The government found it unbelievable that universities of agriculture could be offering programmes in Law and management courses such as Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration – which it described as an aberration.
Little wonder, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, directed the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board ( JAMB) “to delete all such courses on its portal.”
He also warned all candidates who wanted to sit for the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examination, to avoid being hoodwinked into such programmes as they are illegal and are not provided for in JAMB brochure.
Specialised universities in the country are specifically set up to pursue specific courses and programme to generate manpower in particular sectors of the economy.
“Some of these specialised institutions include Universities such as Universities of Agriculture, Universities of Technologies, Universities of Medicine, amongst others. The Federal government has observed that these institutions have derailed from their statutory responsibilities, thereby running programmes that are antithetical to their mandates.
“The government notes the unfortunate situation were Universities of Agriculture offer programmes in Law, Management courses such as Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration, among others. As if that was not enough, some institutions change the nomenclature of some of the courses to read for instance Banking Engineering, Accounting Technology, among other names. This is an aberration and should be stopped with immediate effect,” an obviously displeased Adamu had stated.
Going a step further on its intent to sanitise the specialised universities unfortunate incursion into areas not designed for them, in March the National Universities Commission in March began a process of de-accrediting some courses being handled by specialised universities.
According to the NUC Director of Information and Public Relations, Ibrahim Yakasai, a meeting was held by the commission with the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, and vice chancellors of specialised to harmonise the courses being offered by the institutions.
“We are looking at the courses that are actually related to the mandates given to them, looking at the courses that are relevant for the agriculture universities and those that are also relevant to technology universities; thereby delist those that are not relevant and ask them to stop doing them,” Yakasai stated.
But West mentioned at the onset need not weep because the Federal Government decided to give a soft-landing to students who have been caught in the web of specialised universities crookedness.
“We are not NAFDAC, we are dealing with human beings and not medicines that we can ban and discard. Whenever there is an order like this, we have to allow those already being enrolled legally to finish and their degrees will be recognised,” the NUC boss had pointed out.
There will also be reprieve for lecturers taking the ‘foreign’ courses in the institutions as the Federal Government promised to redeploy them to institutions where they will be useful.
As of August 2016, there were at least 150 illegal or unaccredited courses being offered in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
The 150 programmes cut across arts, science, education, law and engineering. One of the state-owned universities in the South-South ran five unaccredited engineering courses: civil, mechanical, petroleum, chemical, electrical and electronics. The details are in the National Universities Commission accreditation status of academic programmes in the nation’s 143 universities in 2016.
The President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, last year had asserted that the process was compromised by bribes given to the accreditation teams by the universities.
“When there are allegations that some of the people who conduct accreditation in the name of NUC receive brown envelopes, the NUC will ask: ‘are those who give or take the envelopes not your colleagues?’ But the NUC forgets one thing, that the accreditation bears NUC accreditation’,” Tomori had noted.
In May 2015, in the twilight of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, the Federal Executive Council approved the Nigerian Maritime University, the first of its kind not only in Nigeria, but in sub-Saharan Africa.
Located in Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South West council area of Delta State, the institution is an initiative of the National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). And it is part of its efforts to boost the production of high-level manpower development in the country’s maritime sector.
The significance of the developments is viewed against the backdrop of the fact that the area symbolises the struggle of the people of the Niger Delta. In addition to this, it would also help in empowering youths from the Ijaw nation to have a say in how the resources from the oil and gas (which are sourced from their soil) are utilised in the country.
“Of course we know the importance of these projects, the Nigerian Maritime University, the Shipyard and the Dockyard. From the beginning, this country started quite well in the maritime sector, but just like in the industrial sector, we laid back and so many countries that Nigeria was ahead of them overtook us. Because we had shipping lines that were going all over the world, we couldn’t follow up,” Jonathan had stated.
Nigeria is said to be grappling with dearth of knowledgeable manpower in the specialised fields and has over the years been encouraging specialised university education.
The Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, also hinted that a specialised university for information and communication technology will likely be established.
In May this year, the Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung, had warned that allowing specialised universities to continue to offer courses outside their mandates could be counterproductive.
“I am a member of the Federal Executive Council and I stand with the decision and the wisdom of specialised universities limiting themselves to their core mandate. The laws creating these universities are very clear. What business does the university of agriculture have in producing lawyers and accountants? If we are not careful, in future they will produce imams and pastors.
“We have so many universities of agriculture that abandoned their specialty and they are producing accountants and mechanics, they will soon be producing footballers. After carefully examining the laws that created these universities, the Federal Executive Council took this decision. We came to the decision that these universities should concentrate on their specialty. It was not an arbitrary decision. It has broad consultation. The AGF was invited so I think what we did was the best for the country for now,” Dalung had said.
According to Prof. Kolawole Adebayo, an expert in Rural Development Communication, Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, College of Agricultural Management and Rural Development (COLAMRUD), specialised universities were established with clear mandates in which most of them have performed excellently.
Using FUNAAB as an example, he said the institution, in meeting its mandate of teaching, research and extension, had produced high-level manpower to service the human resource requirements of Nigeria in agricultural and related sectors, with its research outputs among the best in the world, while the local relevance of its mandate is taken out to communities through the agricultural extension centre.
Similarly, Prof. Bolanle Akeredolu-Ale, Chairperson, Committee of Deans and Directors (CODAD), added that FUNAAB has definitely achieved it objectives in terms of teaching, research and extension with regards to capital development.
For Lateef Sanni, a professor of Food Science and Technology, Department of Food Science and Technology and Dean, College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), timely release of funds can slow the progress of specialised universities.
Professor Akin Omotayo, Director, Institute of Food Security, Environmental Resources and Agricultural Research (IFSERAR), said about challenges facing such institutions as FUNAAB, “We do not have the practical equipment, the funds and other technical facilities to develop commercial farms for the purpose of providing optimal training for our students. We need more government commitment in terms of funding, provision of modern technical facilities and field equipment to prepare our students properly as commercial farmers.”
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