The university system in Nigeria is still not off the critical gaze of its assessors. But unlike the recent past when it was the Federal Government and university administrators throwing darts on the system, it is now an academic and an insider who has put the problem on what he calls the unbridled proliferation of universities in the country as a major reason the system is not producing functional results it should produce.
In the position reflecting the typical statist preference of the larger Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Dr Dele Ashiru, the Chairman of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Chapter of the union is urging the National Universities Commission (NUC) which regulates the university system in Nigeria to set more stringent conditions for the establishment of new universities as well as existing ones, arguing that proliferation of universities in the country is part of the problem.
New universities across the country the system have not produced the expected results, he said. “Every now and then, we see new universities springing up without really trying to find out what impact the existing ones have made in the political, social and economic development of the country”, said he. Contending that most of the universities do not even have personnel, especially lecturers to teach, let alone the requisite infrastructure that will enable a well-rounded university education, the Chairman argued to newsmen Monday the case for an urgent and adequate equipping of existing universities, whether they are of public or private ownership as a way of addressing the challenges of the country.
The UNILAG Political Scientist dismissed proliferation of universities as solution to creating access to tertiary education and other challenges facing the system. Instead of establishing more universities, he is all for strengthening existing ones to make them become more relevant to national development. He emphasised concerted efforts to create an enabling, good learning environment that will attract and retain the right scholars, including foreign ones to the system, warning against those he called politicians or people who have failed in the banking sector and could not find employment in the industry turning to the university system as a last resort. His argument is that “Teaching in the university is a calling and unless you are called, you cannot make impact. It is not for all-comers. “The university is equally not a place where people can come in and do politics like it is being witnessed in most campuses in the country.”
He is worried that private universities established to make profits were now lobbying the National Assembly to amend the TETfund Act in a bid to get federal government funding.
Dr Ashiru’s views would hardly be the last on the crisis in university education in Nigeria as his position might elicit endorsement or counter arguments soon again. While many might not dispute proliferation, some people are likely to ask if proliferation and standard are antithetical to each other. For quite many, the issue about new universities, especially the private universities, is the gap they have filled in terms of access.