By John Alechenu
The report of the Federal Government Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities has advanced reasons why Nigerian universities have been unable to compete favourably with their counterparts across the globe.
According to the report, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, a combination of infrastructural and manpower challenges has over the years led to a sharp decline in scholarship in the nation’s ivory towers.
Apart from the steady decline in the quality of physical infrastructure such as lecture theatres, laboratories, hostel blocks and residential quarters for teaching and support staff, lecturer to student radio has also worsened. The number of professors and holders of PhDs has also been a growing source of concern.
The report observed among other things that a number of universities have become increasingly dependent on visiting lecturers and inbreed academic staff, which it noted, was counter-productive.
The report said public universities are “grossly understaffed relying heavily on part time and under- qualified academics majorly closed homogenous staff in terms of ethno-cultural background.” It also revealed that there were currently 37,504 academics in Nigerian public universities with 83per cent of them being male and 18 per cent being female.
Of this number, 23, 030 (61 per cent are employed in federal universities while 14, 474 (39 per cent) teach in state owned universities. Teaching staff to student ratio revealed further disparities between Nigerian universities and their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
The ratio of teaching staff to students in selected institutions is as follows: National Open University of Nigeria-1 to 363, University of Abuja- 1 to 122, Lagos State University-1 to 144. In contrast:, Harvard University is 1 to 4, Massachusetts Institute of Technology- 1-9, Cambridge-1 to 3, NUS-1 to 12, ICFUPM-1 to 9, Technion-1 to 15.
The Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led committee noted that, “Teaching staff distribution in the country, both by qualification and by rank, indicates that Nigeria’s university system is in crisis of manpower. “Instead of having 100 per cent academics having PhDs, only about 43 per cent do so. The remaining 57 per cent have no PhDs, instead of 75 per cent of the academics being between senior lecturers and professors, only about 44 per cent are within the bracket while the remaining 56 per cent are not.
“Only seven universities have up to 60 per cent of their teaching staff with PhD qualification.”
It named the universities as: Imo State University, University of Calabar, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, National Open University of Nigeria, University of Port-Harcourt, University of Ilorin and University of Uyo.
Bad as the situation is, the situation in the Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Kebbi State University and Plateau State University, Bokkos deserve special mention.
Kano State University which is 11 years old, has one professor and 25 lecturers with PhDs, Kebbi State University has two professors and five lecturers who have PhDs. The committee also found that 74 per cent of lecturers in the Plateau State University Bokkos, are visiting.