Universities in Nigeria have been charged to undertake research activities that are relevant to, and support national goals as well as which promote the uptake of life changing research outcomes, for the country to realise its potentials.
A two-term former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Emeritus Professor Ladipo Ayo Banjo gave this advice yesterday in Abuja, while delivering the maiden International Lecture Series of the National Universities Commission (NUC). The quarterly lecture was titled “Global Rankings and the Nigerian Higher Education System”.
It was organised in collaboration with the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), and designed to address topical national issues especially as they affect the Nigerian University System (NUS). Yesterday’s lecture was held to address the controversial issue of ranking among universities on the global scale.
The NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Abubakar Rasheed had in October issued a statement to disagree with global ranking of Nigerian universities, saying such rankings were untrue and unfair. He had stated that the NUC would in 2017 conduct its own ranking of Nigerian universities, and the lecture title of yesterday was to begin the process.
Reacting to the constant criticism of Nigerian universities’ poor showing in global ranking, Professor Rasheed submitted that “many of the variables, parameters and indicators of those rankings were outside the control of Nigerian universities and the NUC”.
The NUC scribe, however, dissociated the commission from any reported ranking of Nigerian universities in the mass media, saying it had not embarked on any such exercise in the last 15 years. “It was, therefore, embarking on next year’s ranking to put an end to the spurious claims and innuendoes about the academic standing and quality of Nigerian universities”, the statement quoted Professor Rasheed to have said.
At the lecture yesterday, Professor Banjo agreed that reports issued by even the biggest ranking bodies have been subjected to critisisms with a lot of holes picked in them. According to him, ranking is overly problematic, reducing a university to a number, derived from sometimes controversial indicators which are used to rank it.
“This is evidently unsatisfactory. In view of the large generational, historical, linguistic, national, regional and continental diversity of the over 17,000 universities which must be considered in a fully inclusive ranking project, the daunting challenge is how, if ever possible, to formulate globally acceptable, precise and effective comparability criteria and performance indicators for accessing the quality of excellence of every university in every nook and cranny of this world”, Professor Banjo said.
According to him, the fact that most criteria and indicators are non-global, deals a blow on global rankings. Besides, ranking fuels cut throat competition, while undermining meaningful multilateral cooperation among universities, he said.
He, however, added that in line with emerging trends that are fostering comaparability and competition in the global higher education sector, the Nigerian university system needs to develop and implement its own ranking system.
He noted that this step will be a lot beneficial especially by helping the NUC monitor the state of affairs within the system and strenghtening the criteria it uses for accreditation. “Would-be proprietors of universities will also have a clear idea of what is involved in starting an running a university”, he said.
Professor Banjo also noted that a ranking system for the NUS will stimulate healthy rivalry among universities and make each university perform its role in accordance with best practices. Also, it will guide parents and students to make their choices of universities.
He then recommended the formation of a Nigerian Universities Ranking Council (NURC) which would provide a platform where expertise of relevant stakeholders can be harnessed to provide a creditable framework for the ranking exercise.
He suggested that the NURC resides mainly in the Nigerian Academies and among laureates of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, and be funded through the NUC. It is to develop the underlying philosophy and key objectives of each of its different kinds of ranking, determine the frequency of ranking exercises and to determine how the ranking would be done and what criteria to use in ranking.
The Emeritus Professor reminded of the need to comply with the Berlin Principles on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions.
Earlier while declaring the lecture series open, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who was represented by the Director in charge of Tertiary Education, Hajia Fatima Ahmad, commended the NUC for the initiative of setting up the lecture series which are designed to address topical issues in the university system. He said the discussions were designed to mark the beginning of well established ranking in the the Nigerian university system.
Chairman of the ocassion, and former President of the Academy of Science, Professor Umar Shehu expressed support for the decision to establish a ranking process for the university system in Nigeria. “Academics will continue to engage in this process”, he said.
Executive Secretary of the NUC, Professor Rasheed said the lecture series was meant to invigorate the university system. He added that seasoned educationists of international repute will deliver the lecture series. Professor Rasheed informed that the next lecture which has been slated for February 2017, will be delivered by a former Executive Secretary of the NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola.