Akintunde Oyebode`: “The inevitable meeting of Town and Gown” (YNaija Frontpage)

…The same university has a capital expenditure budget of N450 million, the cost of the house James Ibori allegedly bought in Hampstead, in 2001.

It is interesting to examine different views on the state of Nigerian universities and the quality of graduates produced therein. The usual conclusion is our universities are underfunded, below par and produce half-baked graduates. This judgment is usually delivered in a passionate and eloquent manner by employers, social commentators, and in some hilarious situations, by government officials.

The obvious solution to any problem in Nigeria is to throw money at it, but in this case whose money? Since 1974, Harvard University’s endowments have been managed by Harvard Management Company, set up to support the educational and research goals of Harvard University. The Harvard Endowment is worth approximately $32 billion.

To put this in context, Nigeria has external reserves of $34.7 billion, while the Ministry of Education presented a budget of N400 billion (less than $3 billion) for the 2012 fiscal year. The University of Lagos (Primus Inter Pares, as it likes to describe itself) has a budget of N10.5 billion ($70 million), with over N9 billion of this devoted to payroll. The same university has a capital expenditure budget of N450 million, the cost of the house James Ibori allegedly bought in Hampstead, in 2001. The conclusion is obvious, Nigerian universities are underfunded.

Professor Odebiyi and Dr. Aina, both of the Obafemi Awolowo University, wrote an excellent paper on the alternative modes of funding higher education in Nigeria and the implications for university governance here. It is clear from their argument and global trends that the onus of funding higher education has shifted from government to the private sector. It is not enough to complain about the quality of graduates without asking how much has flowed from MTN, Shell or the legion of Nigerian “billionaires” to those universities.

This is not about giving scholarships to students from oil-producing communities or donating millions of Naira to a grandiose presidential library. It is about a concerted and sustained effort to fund higher education. If this does not happen, we will be here crying about ASUU strikes and more in 2025.

This takes me to the role of adjunct lecturers in Nigerian universities. Nigerian CEOs are not doing enough in the classroom to pass practical business knowledge to the next generation. The classrooms at HBS, Wharton and Said are littered with the best brains from Wall Street and Canary Wharf. This is where the tyre hits the track. But our brains remain at Ikoyi Club, complaining about the quality of graduates produced by Nigerian universities, over Suya and a round of golf. Afe Babalola never taught law during his years as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, instead he focused on being Nigeria’s first emeritus Pro-Chancellor.  Our CEOs were taught by CEOs at Harvard and Yale, why do they ignore the classrooms in Ife and Zaria?

Now everyone is setting up a university. Last year it was Chief Ade-Ojo or Elizade, as you might know him, launching his university in Ilara-Mokin. Soon we will have one in Ogbomosho, set up by you know who. The school will focus extensively on skin pigmentation and colour separation research. At the launch of Afe Babalola’s University in Ado-Ekiti, the man Soyinka calls Daniel Elebo said “Naira has been bastardized today” after $5 million was raised at the event. Oga Afe never organized such an event during his tenure as UNILAG’s pro-chancellor. He would rather construct five buildings; call it a university and name it after himself. Supporting the existing universities is too much work.

Next time anyone rants about the state of our universities, here’s my answer, “yinmu.”

In Other News…

Osaze Osifo, the Managing Director/CEO of FBN Capital Limited died last week. The finance world is depleted by the passage of such a brilliant mind. I pray his soul finds eternal rest.

Comments (20)

  1. @ Author: You are bold sha and I totally respect that!

    I love that yimnu bit because that is clearly what is deserved. I never knew a lot the information you disseminated here, thanks. It's quite enlightening but also very sad.

    I have so much respect for Nigeria-trained graduates who have learned to excel with little or no assistance in terms of facilities and infrastructure that aid the learning process. That's why they go abroad for their PG degrees and come out in flying colours because it becomes almost all to easy given the support system in place.

    I pray Nigeria will change but instead of just sitting in the pew and simply saying a prayer, I have decided and vowed to do my own bit, to contribute my own quota to creating something good out of this country. For those who think they are too insignificant to make any difference in the face of the beast that is corruption, this is my advice: simply by refusing to join in the show of shame, you have made a contribution whose importance and effect cannot be overemphasised.

  2. I teach now. I can die happy.

    Former NCC chief Ndukwe teaches in university, as does Utomi. So let's ask more people – YOU (if you're brilliant and love to teach well), Soyinka, Olojede (NEXT), Usman (Finance/National Planning), etc. Our youth deserve THE BEST.

    And you don't have to go all the way to a university to teach. Primary/Secondary school, writing for Y! or Business Day, organizing a football league, even running a small company can count. if only we won't be too busy to do the most important things!

    I know that we on the uni side ought to facilitate this more – staffing with some "real world" stars not just career academics. Important because the students (and the markets) want more current and applicable skills.

    I actually meant to comment since last week but my internet said no 🙂

  3. Has the writer applied to teach part time at his alma-mata?

  4. The little money that runs public institutions comes from taxpayers, the larger proportion of which is paid by well to do members of society who can afford a private university. Levying the private universities for their public counterparts amounts to asking these parents to pay another subvention to the govt beyond the compulsory contribution of taxes. That's why I consider it double taxation.

  5. “adoption” put simply, taking responsibility for a faculty that one's firm or industry would most benefit from. making available required resources [finance, industry mentors et.al] for optimum produce.

  6. Wonderful article whichever angle you choose to look at it. Wouldn't our students be better off if all the captains of industry and the odd celebrity come into lecture rooms to impart some practical wisdom and experience? Resounding yes. Unfortunately we celebrate when one musician gets to deliver a 30 minute lecture at a backyard faculty in a non ivy league foreign university. Neo-colonialism abi?

    Here's my view; could it be that the captains of industry and the "billionaires" don't trust these schools to properly manage their endowments? I'd say lame excuse. What makes you think you can solve the problem by setting up ur own university? Just tell us you want to eat a piece of the educational wealth and we'll just roll over. I agree that the private sector (companies) and willing and able individuals need to become involved. But they must adopt an approach whereby they "adopt" a faculty or school, complimenting whatever public sector deficiency. If we allow this present trend to continue, who says we won't have a "James Ibori University of Lootocracy" ?

    1. “adopt” a faculty or school, complimenting whatever public sector deficiency"

      What does that even mean?

  7. Today, public universities can only sell the emotional connection to their alumni networks. The cupboard is bare. Many will heed the call, and funding will grow once the seed fund is used effectively. But our bourgeois won't blink if their hands aren't forced. We need to start taking the baby steps.

  8. You are quite right on one key point: there's so much 'hand-wringing' and 'gnashing of teeth' by all and sundry without trying to influence the direction of this particular issue, and many others as they affect our nation in general.

    So here's a crude solution: all private universities should make a substantial annual cash contribution to the public universities in their immediate area of 'operation', say NGN50m/NGN100m, and sign a co-operation agreement on research and secondment of key intellectual resources (including exchange students). In allowing for free enterprise, the FGN should not 'kill' the public universities. An audacious approach, but one that will ensure the schools get directly any monies and take advantage of the superior faculty of the private universities. Endowments and other contributions too, of course.

    1. "all private universities should make a substantial annual cash contribution to the public universities in their immediate area of ‘operation’"

      Too crude. Academia is competition. Won't happen.

      1. Crude? Me thinks not. Academia is competition ONLY in many parts of the West. In the Easty of the world it;'s not always like that. There're no hard and fast rules – just a commitment to excellence

    2. Sorry, but this suggestion is very unfair and amounts to tacit double taxation of well to do individuals who take the education of their children seriously enough to sacrifice and send them to private schools. Where do you imagine the private universities will get the money to make these contributions? From the tution of their students whose parents are already paying the taxes that fund the public institutions.

      There is no law anywhere that says public universities should be free or should be 97% funded by the government as they currently are. Nothing like that. Higher education is a privilege its beneficiaries should be on the hook for.

      If the government wants to solve the issues with higher education, they should allocate public universities a set amount in the budget each year and ask them to make up the shortfall according to their needs by charging market tuition rates. Then they should give students affordable loans so they can afford the market rate tuition. Expecting public universities to deliver quality without resources is foolhardy but at the same time robbing from Peter to pay Paul isn't a solution.

    3. A compromise I am willing to consider is that all private Universities should have a quota of their budgets dedicated to merit based scholarships of less fortunate students. But to fund the mediocre and underfunded public universities is a recipe for disaster.

      1. You and I are agreed on this…well most of it. I don't see how it amounts to "double taxation of well to do individuals" if the suggestion is ever taken seriously. Excellent compromise on merit-based scholarships from private universities.

  9. Good points Medex.

    It is clear private universities is the way to go, the government lacks the revenues to put into education. However, we can't ignore our history, which is rooted in public universities. For us to make the most of this, we need private endowments to revamp the existing base.

    PAU does a great job uniting town and gown (I saw that first hand for 2 years) but it takes less than 300 full time students annually. Its time for our university administrators to mine the alumni data, for funding and intellectual capital.

    Thanks for the kind words too…

    1. "However, we can’t ignore our history, which is rooted in public universities"

      I am only agreeing to the above because I went to one of those. Yes, i'm very biased.

      "Its time for our university administrators to mine the alumni data, for funding and intellectual capital."

      Yes! Schools will have to make it attractive for the alumni though, going hat in hand begging for it won't cut it. It has to a sustained campaign.

      You are very welcome. Looking forward to next week. No pressure.

  10. Great insight into our dwindling educational standards. I totally agree with the practicality that professional would have brought to the classrooms. I hope that decision makers in our educational sector will read this and steal an idea or two from here…it will do all of us a great deal of good. Great job!

  11. why evooooooolsss? whyyyy????

    eerrrmm, evooools = evil… It's just a line from a song, before una go say I no go better school)

  12. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!! I feel a glimmer of hope for Nigeria

  13. I have been waiting all week for your post, it was worth waiting for.

    The issue of funding for Nigerian tertiary institutions (not only the universities) is a touchy one. Should it be driven by the university itself in the form of IGR, research "auction" etc. or led by the private sector via professorial chair endowments et al. I'm positive that the institutions themselves are open to these but of this puts them in a position where they'll contravene the wishes of their primary benefactor-the government, you and i know they settle for the bird in hand.

    Lagos, Ife and Zaria- the universities you mentioned- are government owned but Harvard is a private university. Only a few publicly owned unversities in the US for example are mentioned in the same breath as Harvard, UCLA and Michigan come to mind directly. Perhaps private universities are the way to go? I'm just asking.

    I'm in complete agreement with top Nigerian professionals contributing to the Academia especially at the undergraduate level. I would certainly have thoroughly gained from that. Their practical angle would certainly help students make better, career choices. I think though that Pan-Affrican University (a private one :)) is doing this, even though it only services post-graduate students.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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