PROBLEMS OF UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT IN NIGERIA
The story of university education in Nigeria today has largely been a story of mixed fortune. These institutions initially laid claims in making respectable impact on the socio-political and economic advancement of Nigeria. Today, there are doubts whether Nigerian universities under the present conditions will be able to continue to lay claims on being central to national capacity to connect with the new international knowledge system and adopt, adapt and further develop the new technologies needed in the wider society.
University governance in Nigeria today is nothing but crises management. Nigeria’s university crises, some of which have been identified by the World Bank are as follows:
- Decline public expenditure;
- Deteriorated infrastructure/facilities/equipment for teaching, research and learning – these are either lacking or v inadequate to enable lecturers function effectively;
- Erosion of university autonomy and academic freedom;
- Increasing rate of graduate unemployment;
- Brain-drain and students unrest including regular strikes by both students and academic staff
- Financial Crisis:
There is growing shortage of funds and learning resources in the university system. The major challenge facing the management of university system in Nigeria is inadequate funding. There has been an increase in the proportion of total expenditure devoted to education, but this has been considered to be rather grossly inadequate considering the phenomenon increase in student enrollment and increasing cost, which has been aggravated by inflation. The Nigerian government over the years has not been meeting the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation of 26% of the total budget allocation to education sector. Government priority to education is still very low. These revelations expose the extent to which the government itself is a contributing factor to the financial imbroglio of the university system. The apparent shortage of fund available to the university system has been responsible for declining library, social and laboratory facilities in Nigerian universities in recent years. This in no small way makes the governance of the university system a herculean task.
- Deteriorated infrastructure:
It is worrisome to note that Nigerian universities are fast decaying. All the resources required for education production process are in short supply. Lecture halls, laboratories, students’ hostels, library space, books and journals, office spaces are all seriously inadequate. According to the World Bank, the equipment for teaching, research and learning are either lacking or very inadequate and in a bad shape to permit the universities the freedom to carry out the basic functions of academics. Still, according to the NUC, the Presidential Visitation Panels which looked into the operations of all federal universities over the years reported that physical facilities at the universities were in deplorable condition. Meanwhile, this condition of resource inadequacy is described as an offshoot of the endemic financial crises in the sector.
- Brain-drain syndrome:
Brain-drain refers to widespread migration of academic staff from the universities in the country to overseas universities or equivalent institutions where their services are better rewarded. Institutional deterioration and salary erosion during the past decade have prompted substantial “brain-drain” of academic staff and impeded new staff recruitment. According to studies, between 1988 and now, over 8000 lecturers left the federal university system in Nigeria. Various factors have combined to cause these staffing difficulties. One has been the relatively low-level of academic salaries during the past decades and the declining financial attractions of university employment in comparison to other opportunities. Another has been the rising workloads associated with deteriorating staff/student ratios. It must be emphasized that while the best brains are leaving the university system, the broad aim of producing high level manpower from the system for national development cannot be achieved.
- Erosion of university autonomy:
University autonomy is described as protection of the universities from interference by government officials in the day-to-day running of the institution especially on the issues related to the selection of student, the appointment and removal of academic staff including the vice-chancellors, the determination of content of university education and the control of the degree standard and the determination of size and the rate of growth. Government involvement in university governance has been a point of strife between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over some time now. University autonomy is essential to the advancement, transmission and application of knowledge and this is the more reason the ASUU has been more vociferous in this demand. University autonomy and academic freedom has over the years been a recurring issue in the ASUU’s demand from the federal government.
- Graduate unemployment:
The problem of graduate unemployment is a reality in Nigeria where graduates had to wait for upwards of seven years to get job in the public service. It is even common in recent times for university graduates to be subjected to series of competitive examination for appointments. It has become a herculean task for fresh inexperienced graduates to pick a ‘first’ employment in the formal sector.
- Volatile and militant student unionism:
One of the banes of effective university management in Nigeria in recent times is the unbridled student violent reaction to national issues and internal problems. The result of student militancy and violent unionism has been the constant closure of universities, removal of vice-chancellors among others.
- Secret cults:
Perhaps the most important problem facing tertiary institutions in Nigeria today is how to handle the menace and aggressiveness of cult members. Never before has the potential for the destruction of lives and property on campuses been so great or escalated so fast and horrible as now. The issue of cultism among the students has opened a new and very dangerous dimension to the situation of things in our educational institutions. Where cults exist, there is no guarantee that academic programmes and activities would run normally. Hence the university may run the risk of being constantly closed or disrupted. The results of these cult activities have been feeling of fear on campus, killings and deaths, and campus disturbances.
- Political interference:
It has been observed that universities these days are not totally free from the hand of politics outside the university system. Government of the day, most especially in the state-owned varsities, interfere a lot in terms of selection and choice of the chief executive, Deans, Departmental heads, Directors of programmes and above all the selection of vice-chancellors. A situation whereby the members of the university are not totally free to choose their head without government intervention would not augur well for the university system. Another area of political interference is the constitution of Visitation Panels by the Visitor at wills instead of the minimum five years intervals, the main aim of which is to witch-hunt or crucifies the vice-chancellors and the university authorities.
Besides, there is the erosion of the statutory functions of the vice-chancellors by the chancellors and Pro-chancellors (who are titular head of the University) as some of them now decide to stay permanently in their offices on Campus seeing to the day-to-day administration of some universities, and some union officials prefer to see them on issues relating to the internal governance of the university rather than the Vice-chancellor or designated officials. Some other problems in the management of the university system in Nigeria include rising private cost of university education, the unmanageable social demand for admission, sexual harassment examination malpractices and several others.