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Nigeria needs political will to get universities to world-class standard, says Okebukola 

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Peter Okebukola

The 71-year-old Nigerian university system is a “mere toddler” when viewed against universities in advanced countries, Prof. Peter Okebukola has said.

Okebukola, a former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), who made the declaration yesterday in a speech he delivered at the maiden Convocation Lecture of the Chrisland University in Abeokuta, Ogun State, insisted that despite the challenges, the country’s universities could still rise to the top at an accelerated pace, adding: “But we need political commitment towards this 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 elite status conferred by the outside world on the basis of international recognition.”

Okebukola noted that the country needs four complementary sets of factors to build world-class universities, including high concentration of talents (staff and students); abundant resources to offer a rich learning environment and to conduct advanced research; favourable governance features that encourage strategic vision, innovation and flexibility that enables institutions to make decisions and manage resources without being encumbered by bureaucracy and sustained financial support with appropriate mix of accountability and autonomy.

He added: “Our universities also need to recognise that achieving world-class standards requires 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, aspiring that by October 1, 2030, at least one Nigerian university will emerge among world’s top 100.

“A strong positive link has been established between the quality of student 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 cream off the best from the large army of half-baked secondary school leavers.”

On private Universities, he said, “New grounds in research and development have been explored by private universities, setting standards for the public. For instance, while the Ebola virus raged, public universities made feeble efforts 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 university, which sets a model of partnership in research and development that is now a global case study.”

Chrisland University holds its maiden convocation ceremony tomorrow.


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