A few weeks ago, a group of graduates from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) went on air to express their frustrations with the unemployment situation in the country.
According to them, employers are discriminating against most of the certificates(degrees) from NOUN. Graduates of the Open University have sub-standard qualifications, potential employers claim. The alarm echoed throughout the nation, but to deaf ears. By late December 2017, nearly 14,000 students of NOUN had their convocation, and these school leavers will add to the over-saturated employment markets.
The National Open University is, on average, more equipped than some of the newly established private universities. Yet, there is no standard, authentic accreditation authority other than the archaic National University Commission (NUC), which needs accreditation itself. There is the need to reorganize the NUC to professionally review the standards of education this country requires to compete in the global intellectual system, with capable university products. Unfortunately, with corruption as the only national emblem, the NUC has lost the touch to upgrade academic standards of the numerous, newly established, mushroom universities.
Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculties from various accredited colleges and universities.
The deluge of awarded degrees today cannot equate to any form of human capital development this country badly deserves to support economic growth, through the political and social institutions.
Everywhere in the world, governments want three things from higher education: research, human capital, and equity. On the research side, there is no university in Nigeria capable of effective research in the various scientific fields or humanities any more. Research funds to universities and other research institutions are misappropriated at the ministry of education.
On human capital, the half -baked graduates are ill-qualified to be considered the pillar of future development. Nigerian University graduates, especially those from the numerous privately funded institutions, cannot compete with their peers in other countries. Sadly, even some of the legacy universities have joined the bandwagon of awarding degrees to unqualified students.
On equity, the results also look bleak. Graduation rates between the rich and poor are diverging. While rich parents send their children abroad to acquire the best in academics, poor people’s children are forced to stay behind, with sub-standard knowledge in the various fields of study.
While advocates of privately funded universities postulate that it is the easiest way for those who cannot gain admission into the crowded legacy universities like Ibadan, Ife, and Zaria, there are signs that the National University Commission is infested with ineptitude and corruption to enforce quality education through teaching standards. The results are unqualified young men and women, who are unemployable in the growing scarce- job- markets.
Last year, one of the private universities awarded about 50 first class degrees to students in various departments. This is simply a marketing strategy because those graduates cannot, by all accounts, merit such academic achievements in such a ramshackle institution. We are turning glorified secondary schools to tertiary institutions to the detriment of our future.
The glaring competitions among the private universities for students have led to eye-catching advertisements of low tuition fees, academic fields offered, and aesthetic campus photos. Obviously, the drive is catch-phrased to entice prospective students, and their parents, who pay the fees.
America is still leading the world in creating mass higher education. That transformation was driven in part by the economy’s need for higher skills and in part by society’s desire to give the men who fought in the Second World War a chance to better themselves. America thus became the first country in the world in which the children of the middle classes went to college, and college became the passport to prosperity.
Given its success, it is hardly surprising that the American approach to higher education is spreading. Mass education has taken off all over the world. The American-style research university is the gold standard, and competition among nations to create world-class research universities as good as America’s is intensifying. Provision, financing and control everywhere is moving from the European model, where everything is done by the state, towards the American one, in which the private sector provides a large part of education and individuals pay for most of their tuition (the economist, April 28, 2015).
But, despite the large number of higher institutions in America, the accreditation process remains rigorous and credible. That’s why the top-notch research universities of the world are in America, and everyone is driven with nostalgia to acquire a certificate from one of them. Nigerians who can afford to pay the exorbitant fees, edure the process and support their children abroad.
World University Rankings
Higher education in America has long been a strongly competitive business. Students and university Presidents alike keenly watch the rankings produced by the US News and World Report. Such rankings encourage stratification. One of the metrics is the proportion of students the university turns away, which encourages selectivity. That in turn encourages differentiation between better and worse universities.
Again, governments want top-class universities because the modern economy is driven by human capital. The goal is to nurture people that will create intellectual property and clusters of high-tech companies. Parents want to be sure that their children have got a big global brand on their certificate that is going to be a passport to their future.
It is quite disheartening that no single University in Nigeria is rated on the global ranking scale, yet more sub-standard higher institutions spring up every month in this country. It’s laughable that faculties and departments are without a qualified administrator, or a professor that can transfer knowledge/skills to the students. Degrees are available for sale to students; an exhibit of university graduation.
The future of Nigeria’s economy remains frail because of the standard of education practiced. The compulsive idea to obtain “paper qualification” without substance is encouraging massive academic frauds in the country. University lecturers are in intense hurry to be called “professors”, with very little to offer the academia, and the society at large. The prerequisites for appointment to a professorship at a university are a completed programme of higher education, pedagogical suitability and a special aptitude for academic work (usually an outstanding doctorate). Proof must also be furnished of additional academic achievements. But within four years, our university lecturers instantly lobby for the prestigious rank. They become professors—- empty academics.
There is so much fraud in the education system of Nigeria that crooks and fraudsters, in connivance with the regulatory authorities, propel exam “miracle centers” to fasten acquisition of impeccable WAEC and JAMB results for admissions to shoddy higher institutions. This is common knowledge within the polity, yet, nothing is done to forestall this act of criminality and degradation.
The future of Nigeria must be trusted in the hands of competent younger generations with potent human capital.
It is therefore, not surprising that we have neglected meritocracy for mediocrity. The national university commission must be replaced with a better accreditation agency