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July 23, 2024

Bogoro: Focusing on Faculty, Equipment Will Boost Universities’ Global Ranking

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At a two-day capacity building workshop organised by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund recently for beneficiary universities in Lagos, the Executive Secretary, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, explained to some journalists, including Funmi Ogundare, why the institutions must focus on the quality of faculty and research equipment so that they can achieve a higher global ranking. Excerpts:

In your remarks, you alluded to mushroom universities being part of the reasons for the poor ranking of universities in Nigeria. As a solution, ASUU recently suggested that new universities shouldn’t benefit from TETfund grants for the first 10 years. Do you agree with that submission?

I was at Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) recently and the founder, Chief Afe Babalola, virtually said mushroom. He talked about illegal universities and mushroom universities. It wasn’t Prof. Bogoro, but the truth is we have less than competitive universities across the country. This is not good for us. Chief Afe Babalola spoke about the National Assembly making pronouncements about the creation of universities when the powers do not exist with them. The laws of the university is very clear. It is the executive that creates universities, and the law then goes to the National Assembly.

Why the capacity building workshop, and would you describe the ranking of Nigerian universities?

For me, the workshop is a platform for discussing ranking. Yes, we are talking about the standards and quality that obtain in the ivory towers. They are determined in terms of their standards both locally and internationally. This is what people flaunt. But very sadly, in Nigerian universities, they have been ranked very lowly for quite a while, embarrassingly so. About eight, nine years ago, given the top 2,000, there were no Nigerian universities. In the African universities, there were no Nigerian universities until seven or eight years ago that we had about three to five Nigerian universities in the top 100 of Africa.

What effort was made by TETFund to ensure that universities in Nigeria rank high?

To a significant extent, courtesy of TETFund intervention, we have been able to secure a scale-up of the ranking of our universities. And that was how, from a no university among the top 2,000 in 2015, we had two universities emerging, and I think two or three years after, we had three or four universities emerging among the top 1,000. Last year, the University of Ibadan emerged in the top 500, Covenant University was also between 500 to 600. That means it is increasingly good news. The immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Olayinka, said to me last year, ‘I am happy to inform you that UI has hit it among the top 500 in the world. We got the news this week. We are celebrating’. Let’s give credit to people who have contributed. Believe me, TETfund is one of those that have helped UI to rank high.

What are the factors that hinder the progress and performance of Nigerian universities in the global ranking of world universities?

For us to convoke a meeting of this nature to discuss exclusively ranking requirements, we are concerned. Recently, when I delivered a convocation lecture of ABUAD, I said, ‘ historically, endowments and research foundations are the DNA of ivory towers, but very sadly, some other things are defining our universities; lackadaisical tendencies, politicisation, mediocrity, refusing to place square pegs in square holes even within the university system from the leadership and management level to academic units; departments, colleges and faculties. Whichever micro-unit within the system, when people get promoted to the rank of professors, and you invite them to lead a team to produce a grant for professorial chair, and they literally buckle. What does that tell you? That person lacks the capacity. We must interrogate these issues. These are the problems. The ranking of universities is around the quality of faculty and research equipment. Take out these two; then, there is no basis for ranking of universities. That is why we are trying to do it at TETfund.

How can universities in the country be competitive and be part of the knowledge economy, and what indices are used in the assessment for global ranking?

To be competitive, Nigerian universities must ensure that all lecturers should aim to have a Doctorate of Philosophy as an essential requirement for teaching and research. Universities must develop strong democratic leadership in their administration and must also develop a collaborative association with industries, foreign universities, linkages and donor agencies in multiple capacities that increase funding for research, teaching and other essential facilities. Aside from these, they should be able to identify strong programs and build on them through the endowment of chairs in medicine, engineering, pharmacy, cyber security, or other fields of science and technology. Some of the indicators employed for the ranking include teaching, citations, international outlook, industry income, academic and employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, international faculty ratio and international student ratio. While we genuinely and vigorously pursue and strive to strengthen universities in Nigeria to be globally competitive, we must ensure that such improvement is carried out carefully and with professionalism. It must also reflect in the improvement of the Nigerian state and its people.

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