A vote for varsities of education (2)

 Prof. Julius Okojie

Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie

Continued from yesterday
WHAT is even more important is that all their degree programmers have NUC accreditation status. Accreditation exercises carried out by NUC were in the colleges (not on mother campuses of affiliation) to examine the infrastructure and staff strength and mix among others before giving accreditation.

Thus the colleges were informally functioning as universities as they run NUC approved degree programmes such that the upgrading into universities in the discipline of education is in terms of nomenclature.

The upgrading, however, has inherent advantages that have salutary effects on the system. For example, examination process becomes internal and can thus generate financial cost saving for the new universities, as huge affiliation fees will no longer be paid to the foster mother older universities.

Besides, while they are saved internal financial flight, the students are also saved in terms of cost or security challenges that some of them face in moving from lecture centres to outreach or affiliated campuses.

The new universities are, therefore, highly experienced or strong in the administration and execution of degree programmes in education.

This possibly explains why the new universities have NUC and JAMB permission to continue with the existing practice of admission into the existing degree programmes this year. Some of those who have criticised the establishment of the new universities argue that huge, perhaps gargantuan, financial outlay will be needed in running the institutions.

It is important to recall that it has been pointed out that giant infrastructural costs should not be a problem for the new universities now.

The personnel and running costs should also not be a problem because at this stage or possibly for the next few years, the addition of staff is only that of the Vice-Chancellor and that of a few senior people who may come to the institutions on sabbatical.

Before the upgrading, the institutions engaged a few professors on sabbatical and/or contractual appointments, anyway, because they run degree programmes.

A few staff on ground will also have status adjustment based on right sizing or placement, but their salaries are within the system already captured by the current budget provisions and aside the conventional funding, the erstwhile colleges have been in the mainstream of accessing TETFUND grants which they will continue to enjoy whether or not they are universities.

This then implies that the current or existing budgetary allocation for staff emoluments and allowances need only a minimal adjustment of about 5 per cent to accommodate new statutes of academic staff.

This ipso facto implies that the new universities can run on existing funding pattern for the next few years and not require huge capital outlays as in the case of universities just starting from the scratch.

Equally interesting is the attitude of host communities to the new universities. For those of us on ground, we can attest to their extremely warm receptive attitude.

For example, in Kano, the Emir warmly received the university officials and prayed for the growth of the new university while the state Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje promised to donate a brand new bus to the university.

In Zaria, the Emir of Zazzau welcomed the university and prayed for its continuous development, while a community philanthropist, Alhaj Bashir Banadeen donated 100 hectares of land for future development.

In Owerri, both the Eze of Imo (Ohiri) and Governor Rochas Okorocha welcomed the upgrading and promised assistance to the new university while the Oji community have given the assurance that no land incursion will be made into the university land.

The Alumni Associations of the four colleges, now universities, wrote to thank the government for the upgrading and pledged support for their alma maters.

Internal acceptance by management, staff unions and student unions have been monumentally fantastic and they all provided the needed support for the Vice Chancellors for effective take-off, perhaps with the exception of one or two former provosts who are against it for personal reasons.

The overwhelming support demonstrated by the people in the primary catchment areas of the new universities is a good testimony to warm community acceptance. Perhaps another ready criticism is that the universities do not yet have enabling acts.

It is common knowledge that statues/acts/bills establishing or setting up universities in Nigeria (maybe with the exception of some first generation universities) sometimes take a few years to be ready after the universities have been up and running.

A recent example is that of University of Uyo founded in 1991, but had the establishment law known as University of Uyo (Establishment) Bill 2010.

Universities established during the current democratic dispensation from Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan years took two to three years after they began operations before their Acts or Bills were ready.

To improve on some of such previous records, the Federal Ministry of Justice has made available to the new universities the draft statues for their establishment as new universities and the repeal of the old laws establishing them as colleges.

Such commendable progress may result in the bills becoming ready within a year of establishment. By the way of conclusion, it is important once more to comment on the salutary effect that the new universities will have on the often criticised Nigerian educational system.

First, the new universities will play the critical role of mentor/trainer institutions for all colleges of education in Nigeria. Secondly, the universities will also promote qualitative professionalism of teacher education in Nigeria.

Thirdly, and in a related manner, they can effectively address the consistent criticism of the quality of the teachers in Nigeria. Fourthly, they can also help in increasing the number of admission seekers into the discipline of education.

Whereas there has been low subscription of education courses in many of the old conventional universities, the establishment of universities of education where there is parity of social esteem among students, has helped in considerably increasing subscription as the two state-owned universities of education in Ogun and Rivers states have shown.

Fifthly, the upgrading of the colleges into universities is in line with best practice for teaching staff development-cum-professionalism as well as the operationalisation of curriculum development to enhance graduate employability in Nigeria – ultimately impacting positively on the quality of education service and delivery in Nigeria.

• Concluded. • Dr. Haruna is with Federal University of Education, Kano while Dr. Akintunde is a lecturer at Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo.

 

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