Funding of university education in Nigeria
Inadequate funding of University education in Nigeria is the greatest developmental problem. Today, University education in Nigeria remains chronically underfunded! Our enthusiasm for education has not been matched with financial and developmental commitments.
Currently, the APC-led government under President Buhari, allocates a paltry sum of 5 – 7 per cent of the total budget to education, as against the recommended United Nations standard of at least 27 per cent of annual budget of a nation to education. So, the level of commitment of resources to education does not match our desire for educational development.
One of the root causes of the problem of inadequate funding is as a result of government policy of abolition of tuition fees in Nigerian federal universities in 1977. Today, there is an unprecedented growth of federal universities cum students’ enrollment/ population, without a corresponding increase in the budgetary allocation. The problem of inadequate funding has brought about the recent call for the re-introduction of tuition fees to federal universities in Nigeria (State and privately owned universities have already introduced their own). The problem of inadequate funding has led to a general decay in infrastructural development and maintenance.
One of the things required to move the federal universities out of the brink of collapse and abyss of despair is this vexed question of tuition fees. This renewed interest is based on the pressure and demands on the system and its facilities which are becoming so high to the extent that free tuition in Nigerian federal Universities may no longer be sustainable.
However, the reintroduction of tuition fees should be a gradual process, not the present suggestion of moving from the “non-tuition status” to one million Naira tuition paying fees! Let us make haste slowly. We can begin with tuition of N50,000 per semester with a review every four years. With this gradual process students and parents will not feel much of the pain; after all, we all pay that much for our kids in private and public primary and secondary schools in the country.
Factors inhibiting the adequate funding of University education in Nigeria can be better situated within the influence of monetary economic theories and the enormity of debt burden. A major shift was felt in the way Western countries applied aid to “Third World Nations”. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank became interventionist in their approach to Third World economies through Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP). With this, came the rise in inflation, collapse or decline in the price of crude oil, unstable exchange rates and mounting external debts. Consequently, the budgetary allocations from the government could no longer match the increasing burden placed on universities! The concomitant neglect of the university as a potentially important motor of development is damaging. The ruling elites in Nigeria accord knowledge a second fiddle role to politics and power!
Other crises-generating factors which are fall-out of the subsisting disharmony in the University system, resulting from inadequate funding include: inadequate basic and essential facilities, formulation of a new and disadvantageous pension scheme, poor and demoralising conditions of service, and discontinuation of federal government scholarship and bursary award schemes.
All these are inadequacies that erode performance.
What is required to move the Nigerian educational system out of the brink of collapse is a fundamental overhaul. One important step towards revival and sustainability is a drastic reform that would reduce the dependence of the University on the unsecured and dwindling resources from the government.
There is the need to explore other avenues of income to boost government subversion, if the University must continue to survive, like: 1. Engaging in fund raising activities and private sector participation in education. 2. Financial resourcefulness and strengthening the internal and external control mechanism, for better and transparent management. 3. A two-fold rationalisation policy. One, the government needs to re-constitute and expand membership of the University Council to reflect various interests groups and stakeholders associated with the activities of the university. Two, the present unprecedented proliferation of universities in Nigeria, without commensurate development and basic infrastructures must be tackled frantically. There should be mergers and acquisitions. 4. Pursuit of intensive and extensive agricultural programmes, especially for those universities in the rural areas. 5. Establishing a linkage between higher education and industry, commerce and agriculture, in order to fully realize the potentials of the system. 7. In line with the “National Policy On Education”, education should be adequately funded as a social service, to be financed by all tiers of government. 8. Education Tax Fund, National Science and Technology Fund, Nigeria Education Bank Fund, Industrial Training Fund, Petroleum Trust Fund along with Tetfund should be revived, mobilised and made available for Nigeria education to utilise. 9. The NUC minimum standards should include a minimum standard of annual budgetary allocation of not less than 10-20 per cent of Nigeria’s national budget. 10. A certain degree of institutional autonomy should be granted to the university, in order to facilitate economic diversity, for services to be adequately paid for and objectives effectively realised or achieved.
The above suggestions, if implemented, will go a long way to help in transforming and reinvigorating the system. Let’s move with the momentum of a revolution!
Prof. Azenabor is former Director, Institute of Continuing Education, former Head of Philosophy Department, University of Lagos, and now a visiting scholar at University of Ghana, Legon.