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Why African varsities are poorly rated by Okebukola

By Iyabo Lawal
01 August 2019   |   4:17 am
Eminent scholar and former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, has identified reasons why African...

Peter Okebukola

Eminent scholar and former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, has identified reasons why African universities are poorly ranked among global league institutions.

Okebukola listed low investment in research, system inefficiency, low ICT use in promoting visibility, sharp practices in research works as well as failure to attract international students as some of the challenges hindering the global ranking of African universities.

Using Times Higher Education (THE), Webometrics and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) schemes as parametres, Okebukola said when an institution fails to invest adequately in research, it would be poorly rated globally.

ARWU rank universities based on alumni and staff winning, Nobel Prizes and field medals, highly cited researchers, papers published and indexed in major citation indices as well as the per capita academic performance of an institution.
On its part, the judge research-intensive universities based on their core missions of teaching, research, outlook, citations and industry income.

Webometrics ranking is an open scientific exercise for providing reliable, multidimensional information about the performance of universities across the world based on their web presence and impact.

However, the Director of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, Institute for African Culture and International Understanding, in his lecture at Covenant University titled, “World ranking parameters: Matters arising for African universities,” said these rankings are viewed by African universities as being selective, using indicators that do not favour higher education delivery in the region.

“For instance, the grouse against ARWU is having number of Nobel prize winners as an indicator. Many African university managers and scholars believe that the sparse representation of Africans on the list of Nobel laureates is by itself discriminatory and will consign African universities to the bottom of global league tables for a long while.’

Although the former NUC boss said there has been a steady improvement in the ranking of African varsities in the global league table from less than eight in 2004 to 15 in the list of 500 institutions in THE ranking.

To improve in global ranking, the erudite scholar said authorities of such institutions must familiarise themselves with the most recent ranking indicators and encourage national ranking of universities to prepare the local for the global.

He also identified improved investment in research that will strengthen institutional and human research capacities.

“Attracting international staff and students, steering programme delivery towards the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), massive national, regional and global publicity (use of social media) and providing learner-friendly infrastructure should be taken very seriously among institutions as they are part of the things considered for global ranking of universities.”

For the country to attain respectable ranking among the top league institutions in the world, Okebukola said we should begin to fade out partnerships with little known universities and focus on a few outstanding ones where Nobel Prize winners serve.

Besides, he stressed the need to admit the best students from the secondary school system in order to enhance the chances of good quality graduates.

Okebukola listed other strategies to include encouraging Nigerian scholars to target global programmes, networking with foreign researchers, collaborating with American universities as well as a conducive research environment and incentive.