70 yrs after, the 'best' Nigerian University is going down in world ranking

Nigerian Universities rank very low in world university ranking. This is why many have been asking questions about the quality of their graduates.

70 years down the line, the nation's dream remains a dream and the University of Ibadan, the first university and its seemingly weak siblings across the country are still struggling to find their feet among the best tertiary institutions in the world.

Nigerian Universities in the 70s were said to be among the best in Africa. So beautiful and attractive were the institutions then that, other Africans came to study in Nigeria.

In those glorious days, Nigerian Universities were proud producers of great graduates.

The likes of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo and many others raised the flag of the country. And with their academic prowess, they showed the world that the most populous country in Africa has the finest academic institutions.

Where did we get it wrong?

Today, the glory of the universities that produced these great minds enjoyed in the 70s and early 80s seems to be fading.

How a University that produced a Nobel laureate in 1986 is not among the top 500 in the world in 2015 is very disturbing.

But as a people, it seems we don't feel disturbed by the fact that only one university in Nigeria features in the first 1000 universities in the world.

And the position the school occupies in the ranking is nothing anybody can be proud of...not even the most shameless of us will be proud of it.

In August 2015, the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie had a strong belief in Nigerian Tertiary institutions so much that he wants us to ignore the ranking because, in his estimation, the standard of the universities are high regardless of what the ranking says.

Okojie believes that the only problem tertiary institutions in Nigeria are suffering from is internet connection, and once that is fixed, the schools would rank high to the sky.

In his effort to dismiss the poor ranking of Nigerian Universities in the Times Higher Education ranking in 2015, the former NUC boss said:

“The people that do the ranking do not really visit universities; they go to the Internet and find out what you are doing. Whatever research we are doing should be sent to the Internet. Money is going into the system for research''.

“I am not disturbed (by the ranking) my concern is whether Nigerian universities are meeting local and national needs; whether we are number one or not does not matter.

“We have made breakthrough whether they rank us or not; but let us concentrate; we have to rebrand our universities, they are good.

“Challenge our students with students from any part of the world and they will always prove themselves,’’

Hmm! All that came from a Prof whom we expect should know better that, the problems that drop Nigerian higher institutions into the lower rung of the ranking are more than internet connections.

No Nigerian university has celebrated its own Professor or a team of professors for a world-recognized academic research recently.

A Nigerian student or alumnus has not really been celebrated for conquering the world like Soyinka did in the 80s.

In the past few years, the work of many Nigerian universities lecturershave not been internationally recognised.

The quality of education, the standard of faculties, and Research output in Nature and Science have seemingly had no remarkable improvement in the last few decades. How do we intend to rank high?

This is the reason Prof. Ayo Banjo, Chairman, Governing Board of National Universities Commission recently said universities in Nigeria could only boast of the production of sachet water and bread.

Is this why Nigerian Universities rank low?

However, while Okojie blamed the poor ranking of Nigerian Universities on poor internet facility, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Prof Ikenna Onyido attributed the drop in the University system on lecturers he described as 'internet professors'.

The former VC described internet professors as Nigerian professors who simply log onto the internet to copy works of other scholars and present same as theirs.

Also, the former Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. John Ajienka identified the lukewarm attitude of Nigerian scholars towards translating research works into innovation as one of the reasons Nigerian universities are not ranking high.

Now you know why most lecturers who claim to be Prof are like local rappers. Their academic voice has not been heard or read elsewhere.

The state of education in Nigeria has become so pathetic that we need no one to tell us how terrible the university environment has become.

For a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa, the ugly position the only Nigerian university occupies in world university ranking is a reflection of falling standard of education in the country.

And this goes beyond the internet issue Okojie put the blame on. A tertiary institution where the academic performance of some female students is based on sex will not produce any professor or graduate of merit.

The problems with Nigerian Universities are more than what the internet can solve.

UI lecturer blames everybody for the poor ranking

According to a senior lecturer at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Ibadan, Dr ABC Robert, the problem is multifacet and the blame is on everybody.

Robert said: ''If you look back to 20 years ago, you'll find out that those people that graduated 20 to 30 years ago are better than the graduates of today. So what we have in today's academics is a situation where everybody is just interested in certificates and money.

''The students are interested in getting certificates because they feel that when they have a certificate they can get a job and get money.

''Lecturers are interested in the job not because they have the passion to teach but because they are interested in the salary and it is not completely their fault.

''The parents also are interested in buying certificates for their children because they want their children to go to places and get money. Again, it is not completely their fault because the government is not helping the situation''.

Research outputs of the lecturers of a university are one of the criteria for rating academic institutions and in Roberts' opinion, Nigerian lecturers have not done well in this area.

''When a professor of a university does not have a recognition in the international community, how will such a university be ranked high''? He queried.

How can we have a Minister of Education or a University Professor who does not have academic relevance? How many Nigerian lecturers' research works have become a point of reference for many other research efforts outside the country?

Another reason the universities rank low is because of poor facilities and lack of funding.

According to Robert the Chemistry laboratories of some universities have no light and doctors in some University Teaching Hospital use torchlights to carry out operations. He wonders why former NUC boss puts the blame on lack of internet in the institutions.

How on earth do we as a people think UI will not continue to remain the only tertiary institution representing Nigeria at the lower rung of university ranking in the world?

Since the quality of faculty is one of the indicators the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities considers in rating academic institutions, University management needs to start taking the quality of lecturers they employ more seriously while the government ensures proper funding of the universities.

''The promotion exercise should not be based on papers, tell us what you have achieved. It is not about writing papers. At the end of every year, let all lecturers be evaluated. They should be evaluated based on what they have done in research in that year.

''With this, we can determine whether to keep a professor or not. If they do that, as a measure of promotion, the university lecturers will sit up,'' Roberts suggested.

Presently, the University of Ibadan, the only University that earns Nigeria a lowly place in the world university ranking is 70-year-old.

The National University Commission is considering 292 more private universities for approval in addition to the 163 universities in the country.

And with the poor funding of the existing tertiary institutions and the intermittent ASUU strike that disrupts academic calendars, no one knows when a Nigerian university would again be considered as the best in Africa.

No one, not even the stakeholders that genuinely want things to move forward!

17-year-old admitted to 19 top universities

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