Ranking our universities high
Many challenges are facing Nigerian universities. They range from brain drain, poor funding, examination malpractice, unstable academic calendar, and the low global ranking, among others. Over the years, the issue of ranking has become important to many universities in the country and beyond.
Reviewing the important discourse in the life of our educational aspiration is Professor Olusegun Folorunso of the Department of Computer Science, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State. Titled, “Re-engineering Nigerian Universities Using Global Academic Ranking Models through Effective Institutional Mandates”, Prof. Folorunso revealed this during the Faculty Lecture he delivered recently at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.
According to him, the advent of university education in Nigeria was an effort meant to make it possible for government to produce high-level manpower for national development and that till date, there are over 170 universities in the country broken down into public and privately-owned, as the regulatory body; National Universities Commission (NUC) had disclosed that yearly population of students seeking university admission was also on the increase. He stated that whenever NUC was ready to issue any university an operating license, institutional mandates documents would be included and that the most common institutional mandates of any university system in Nigeria are teaching, research and community engagement, which is equally called the tripodal mandate.
Why is it that most Nigerian universities are unable to feature on the league tables of most academic ranking bodies? Can we say the ‘quality’ of the university system in Nigeria had dropped and cannot compete with other universities in the world? The don asked.
Prof. Folorunso x-rayed the causes of ranking problems to the existing teaching and learning strategies, research gaps and community engagement challenges in terms of town and gown relationships in building the needed synergy between academia, industries, and government-known as a triple helix. He added that such arrangement was common among global academic ranking models found in the Shangai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, QS World University Ranking and Webometrics Ranking of World Universities as well as most world-class universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Yale and Princeton universities.
The guest lecturer, who was the pioneer Director, Centre for Innovation and Strategy in Learning and Teaching (CISLT) of FUNAAB, said indicators of the identified models were examined and harmonised to re-engineer the present state of Nigerian universities using the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Faculty of Science as a case study of which the rankings had influenced students positively in terms of making informed decisions on where to study, some governments allocate funds while universities struggle to improve on their positions on ranking tables, as most of the factors contributing to the attainment of world-class status by universities. Re-engineering process involves “scientific mode of well-thought-out, properly-organised and the restructuring, re-planning, redesigning, re-arranging or rebooting events of issues for better results, condition or improved performance while the ultimate expectation is to have the best outcome on one’s investments”, he stated.
The lecturer identified that the three longest, established and most influential global rankings are those produced by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy (Academic Ranking of World Universities; ARWU), Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
At this point, the Professor of Computer Science asked; Why the value of re-engineering Nigerian universities? He gave the basis of such an attempt to include massification due to expansion in enrolment, the involvement of private interests in university education, increased mobility due to globalisation and cross-border recognition of qualifications and graduate employability. On the essence and attributes of a good teacher, he said it encompasses having the rightful knowledge base, using appropriate instructional strategies and accepting all those that enter his classroom.
What every good teacher should do would include planning for instructional (classroom) management, teaching with variety of strategies, using real-time assessment to inform students of their achievements including grading policies, keeping up the passion, technological advancement, innovative practices, student-centered learning, project-based learning, novel practices, multiple intelligences, mentorship, pedagogies, blended learning from face-to-face, online learning and other reaching-out methods. Due to active learning participation, the instructor becoming the facilitator, open access, collaboration, and student engagement, e-content has become imperative more than ever before.
Prof. Folorunso, who left no area untouched in the presentation, is a member of NUC accreditation teams to universities in Nigeria for the accreditation of Computer Science and related courses. He is also member, Nigerian Computer Society (NCS); Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria; Fellow, United Nation University (UNU); International Institute of Software Technology (IIST) and Research Fellow, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, United States of America, among others.
Developing 21st Century ICT skills for e-contents would involve the need to create, connect, communicate, collaborate and innovate, saying the bedrock of any national development rested on the level of its research breakthroughs, as it had been established that citadels of learning such as Nigerian universities were established with a view of balancing the tripodal mandate of teaching, research, and community engagements. He added that researches with a positive influence on national growth and development were meant to be carried out by experts in different research fields in the universities on an annual basis for driving societal development. It is for these reasons that most industries, parastatals, ministries, departments, and government agencies normally have a unit called Research and Development (R&D), carefully put in place, to advance scientific knowledge through the verification of hypotheses that are required for testing theories, finding solutions to organisational problems and the application of theories to solving practical problems. However, this is lacking due to immediate and pressing practical limitations such as the absence of quality assurance strategy, lack of coordination strategy, mismanagement of grants/funds, absence of repository for research data, weak community engagements, poor collaboration between institutions of higher education and communities such as local, regional, state, national and global for mutually-beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources within the context of collaboration and reciprocity.
In conclusion, Prof. Folorunso recommended that ranking Nigerian universities high would require a number of interventions that include putting in place adequate teaching facilities, adopting technology in research, using more of applied research, enhanced community engagements and collaborations, deliberate striving for global academic ranking, development of e-content and publishing more in reputable journals across leading universities in the world.
In translating these into reality, the way forward from here would be for the relevant stakeholders to harmonise the points put forward in the robust presentation in raising the bar of excellence of our universities within the global ranking templates.
Kupoluyi wrote from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).