Nigerian universities and low standards
When standards fall, they fall and there is no art by which to make the rotten golden.It should not be surprising, therefore, that Nigeria, once home to some of the best universities in the world, missed out even on the Africa Group of the elite in the 2016 editions of Global Ranking of Universities on Employability Skills Index just released by two reputable global bodies. The omen had been bad for years, given poor funding of education, incessant strikes by university teachers, poor admission standards and loss of ethos, among many other ills.
The rankings, which recognised only four universities in Africa, marked out two in South Africa and the other two in Egypt. None of the 151 universities in Nigeria was rated.
The four African universities reflected in the 2016 Quacquarelli Symonds’ (QS) Graduate Employability Rankings, Global Employability Rankings are the Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand in South Africa; the American University in Cairo and Cairo University in Egypt.
In the QS Ranking, leading the packs are Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States while China’s Tsinghua University takes the third place. Universities with a strong STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – focus, particularly those emphasising technology, rank highly. Tsinghua’s third-place finish is one of several strong Chinese performances: Peking University ranks joint 11th, while Fudan University is 14th.
While the top 10 demonstrates American dominance, with United States universities taking five places, there are four other different nations in the top 10. The others are China, Australia (the University of Sydney, 4th), France (Ecole Polytechnique, 6th), and the United Kingdom (the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, 5th and 8th respectively).
The other top-10 American institutions are Columbia University (7th), the University of California, Berkeley (9th), and Princeton University (10th).Latin America’s highest-ranked university is Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey (40th), while Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (45th) also places within the top 50.
Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (81-90) is the highest-ranked of six featured universities placing in the QS University Rankings: Arab Region. Universities from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are also ranked.
In the same vein, California tops Times Higher Education (THE) ranking released almost at the same time. The release of the QS employability ranking followed a week after Times Higher Education published its sixth annual Global University Employability Ranking also revealing that employers consider graduates from American universities the most employable, but with California Institute of Technology (1st place) leading the pack, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2nd) and Harvard University (3rd).
The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking was based on research commissioned by HR Consultancy Emerging and drawn from 2,500 recruitment managers from large international companies – and showed that U.S. institutions continue to have a strong grip among global employers, taking 37 places in the 150-strong ranking. Six U.S. universities make the top 10, including Stanford University (5th), Yale University (6th) and Princeton University (9th).
Four institutions located outside the U.S. also make the top 10 in this year’s employability ranking: the University of Cambridge (4th), University of Oxford (7th), Technical University of Munich (8th) and the University of Tokyo (10th).
Phil Baty, Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor, said: “A university education brings a host of life-enhancing benefits but for many students, launching a successful career is one of the most important outcomes.”
No doubt, the ranking agencies have their criteria, some of which may not be relevant to individual countries, or even universities. But it can only be an exercise in self-consolation or self-deceit not to see these rankings as a call on Nigeria to wake up from a deep, shameful slumber as far as education is concerned.
Nigeria’s leaders and citizens should begin to reflect on where the damage is and how to repair it. The parlous state of education standards at all levels in the country recently compelled this newspaper to declare a state of emergency on education. Yet the authorities have not accorded education funding the attention it deserves on their priority lists.
What the QS and THE 2016 rankings teach is this: that there is a direct correlation between quality in education and development of countries. The United States, The United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, China, South Africa and Egypt are what they are because of the quality of education in those countries. The same can also be noted of China, Japan and Germany. Germany is unarguably the largest economy in Europe and it has a world-class University in Munich. So is the United Kingdom with Cambridge and Oxford.
It is no surprise too that South Africa is the only African member of G-20 – one of the 20 largest economies in the world and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) influential club of emerging markets. The Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand can attest to the link that exists between quality in their higher education and their economic development.
This is no time for lamentation, however. Government and academics here should come up with facts on how to retool Nigeria’s tertiary education. Curriculum reforms are long over-due and there should be substantially better investment in education by government at all levels.
Therefore, the university system will be of good quality if attention is paid to curriculum reform that will suit local content. The faculty or the academic staff members should renew their mentality, in this regard. The society and indeed the industries that require graduates from the universities should have an understanding of the relationship that should exist between the town and gown by joining hands with governments in this investment in education drive. Funding quality education is not an easy task and calls for the engagement of all hands if Nigerians would be serious about nation building.