THE Oronsaye Committee report (2012) observed that the cost per session of training an “Arts student” was N450,000 (four hundred and fifty thousand naira only), while it cost N525,000 (five hundred and twenty-five thousand naira only) a session to train a “Science student” in a Nigerian university.
The implication is that: • For every 1000 “Science students” in a federal university, N525 million should come to it in tuition fees and related charges, federal grants or subsidies, while N450 million should be the amount for every 1000 “Arts students”.
If our universities get less than this, then we are offering low-quality education. • The All Progressives Congress (APC) has a policy of “free education,” beginning from first to ninth grade, and then later up to university level.
Well, while I do not disapprove of this, I think there is not much clarity on it. Education can never be “free” because ignorance is expensive. Someone must pick up the bills: the government, the consumers, or some other organizations interested in promoting education in the country.
Therefore, if it is verified that, for instance, it costs N 525,000 per annum to train a science major in a federal university, and the government says that students should pay only N 50,000 (fifty thousand naira) for instance, then government must provide a grant of N475, 000 (four hundred and seventy-five thousand naira) to the university as education grant or subsidy.
Failing to do this would mean that government is offering “fraud education” and not “free education.” Genuine free education means a subsidy is paid on education per head to the universities that are service providers. Declaration of “free education” does not make the costs to just vanish away.
When the Nigerian government fixes pump price of PMS at N 87 a litre, it pays “fuel subsidy” to fuel marketers for the difference in real costs. Why would the federal government not pay federal universities, polytechnics and other federal tertiary education institutions “education subsidies” for the difference between real costs and the decreed “charges” that are so ridiculously small?
Does the federal government find it proper to give away hundreds of billions of naira to fuel marketers every year in the name of “fuel subsidies” while starving its federal tertiary education institutions of necessary funds and yet forbidding charging of requisite tuition fees? Here is the conundrum: The federal government instructs its institutions of tertiary education, “Thou must not charge fees.”
But what does it offer in exchange? It offers amounts that are not enough to subscribe to necessary online resources, provide adequate library resources, support necessary technology in teaching, learning and research, provide adequate electricity for learning and research activities, guarantee reliable internet services and timely conference attendance (What happens now is a classic in micro-management, where a faculty member applies for grants for conference attendance through TETFUND, and it takes ages to process; by the time the application succeeds, the conference has come and gone).
By my estimation, based on the Oronsaye committee report of 2012 (not even considering inflationary impact over the three-year differential), more than N 250 million should be attracted to a university physical science department with a student population of 500.
This amount should defray an enhanced annual remuneration of ten full professors (at professor-student ratio of 1:50) at N10 million, with over N 100 million left for other necessary student-related, faculty-related and other expenditures!
This would definitely attract high-quality professors to Nigerian universities, and consequently, good and resourceful students, and then improved grants both local and foreign.
The Buhari administration must request each of the federal universities and other institutions of higher education to furnish the following information: Number of students per program; costs per head per annum of training each of the students; deficiencies in learning and teaching resources and infrastructure; required number and quality of faculty for each program; and any other relevant information.
Based on the information, the federal government can determine how much of the cost it should bear and how much should go to the direct consumers (students).
As a first step towards upgrading federal universities to international standards, six federal universities should be selected and designated as Group One Federal Universities, one each from the six geo-political zones. The Oronsaye Committee recommended “first generation” universities for a similar exercise.
I observe that this would exclude some geo-political regions, and considering our socio-political sensitivities, we must start with six universities, one each from the geo-political zones, upgrade any that fails to meet the standard benchmarks to be pre-determined for Group One Universities if none of the universities in a particular zone meets those benchmarks (in addition, benchmarks would be set for Group Two and Group Three Universities).
The amount of federal grants and any student financial aid (that should be channeled through universities) should depend on the category a university falls in.
Recruitment of faculty for those universities should be done through credible faculty search committees that could use hiring consultants. Salaries of the faculty should be international rate and competitive.
Furthermore, Group One universities would be primary beneficiaries of the Diaspora Professorial Exchange (DPE).
Facilities at the Group One universities should be expanded to take 50,000 students. Admission into programs of the universities would be highly prioritized on the basis of high performance on all qualifying examinations to be determined.
Good performance on faculty evaluation by students, semester-by-semester, would be part of the determinants of job-security for faculty. • Shilgba’s article, the second in a series, was sent via firstname.lastname@example.org