- Category: Opinions/Interviews
- Published on Thursday, 03 February 2011 09:13
- Written by Leadership
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Nigeria universities are far from making progress in the global ranking of universities. Though the system is glaringly crippled by various predicament such a funding, and instability in academic calendar, among others, some stakeholders are not satisfied with the criteria used in ranking world universities, reports Stella Eze.
Vice-chancellor of University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede is one such Nigerians who does not take the world ranking seriously because according to him, the assessors do not take into consideration the differences in the environment and available statistics from Nigerian universities, most of whom he noted do not have functional websites, from where valuable data about the schools could be obtained. He disagrees with the method because it is not favourable to the Nigerian universities environment, and suggested that Africans must also find a way of ranking its universities, just like the West do, bearing in mind the challenges of the sub-region.
Another academic, Dr. Victor Ariole quoted in a national daily in an essay published on June 4, 2007, also faulted the criteria used in the 2007 World University rankings, in which no Nigerian university featured in the top 500. Dr. Ariole’s argument is that Nigerian, and indeed African universities which operate under different circumstances from other universities in the world, should not have been placed in the same category as the Harvards, Yales, MITs and Oxfords in the global rankings. He cited the familiar reasons of poor funding and lack of recognition of graduates of Nigerian universities by the government and the labour market.
Recently, former vice chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Nurudeen Oladapo Alao at a convocation lecture of the institution protested about the ranking, saying, individual student’s performance should not be a criteria to measure the average for the whole of an institution. According to him, the fact that a student has excelled in his or her own capacity, does not make the university the greatest of all, rather, the success or performance rate on the average for the entire products should be considered.
For Alao, the rationale behind the annual routine of global ranking of universities in the world, are basically of two different dimensions to include effectiveness dimension and the efficiency dimension in performance to be considered by the rating body. The effectiveness dimension relates to the mapping between mission elements and institutional outputs while the efficiency dimension on the other hand, addresses the relationship between quantity value of inputs and quality value of outputs. According to him “ The Times Higher Education (THE), global ranking body which publishes its results annually, addresses the effectiveness vector which endows with five major components for university rankings which include: Teaching- 30 %, Research- 30 %, Citations Inf1uence of Research- 32.5 %, Industry Income Innovation- 2.5 % and International Mix- 5 %.
Alao, dismissed statistics from those who based the rating of institution on the performance quality on the basis of the quality of the “best student” in the institution saying that such assertion contains more information about the individual student than about the system and the quality of the average in our system. “For an efficient institution, the larger the quantum of resources, the higher the effectiveness likely to be, he said.
Analysing the THE scoring scheme, Alao noted that the body gives equal weight to teaching and research, namely 30 per cent each, stressing that this proportion is not radically different from that used by UNILAG over the decade in making professorial appointments.
The professor insisted that for Nigerian universities to make their way to the ranking, teachers are to accomplish at least six goals which are: To expose with respect to each course the essential themes and critical issues which define the course as comprehensively as possible; To supply the concepts and techniques needed to conduct arguments and analyses in the course and to master associated literature; To integrate the first and second goals so as to make the course systematic, coherent and cumulative.
Others include constantly engaging the students and thereby facilitating the mastery of subtle relationships as well as encouraging creative skepticism with respect to received thoughts and doctrines; To expose unsolved problems and call attention to solvable special cases of such general problems and as well develop graduated exercises which both challenge the students problem solving capabilities and reinforce their learning process.
Former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, had a different view about the very pathetic place of Nigeria in the global ranking. He pinpointed all the factors bedeviling the system and said until those problems were surmounted, Nigeria, would still be in slumber while her contemporaries, even in Africa are edging towards better recognition by the ranking bodies. He mentioned some characteristics, which the university system must possess before it could be regarded as being in serious business of producing quality products under a learner-friendly university environment. He said that the sector had eight imperatives which are: to create a vibrant research culture; ensure that it fully discloses information, especially on its websites; maintain a stable academic calendar; improve facilities; exterminate “cultism”; comply with student-number capacity; concentrate on strengths while avoiding duplication; and build strong international links. With all these in place, the university would be in a better position to groom quality products, which would compete favourably with their contemporaries elsewhere in the world.
But some analysts said the suggestion to rank African universities with different criteria may further compound the already existing problems. According to them, Africa is already tagged ‘the third world’ due to the glaring under-development and high poverty and illiteracy level. Giving the West or the ‘first worlds’ a change to further delineate the continent as providers of very low quality of education would be disastrous for the continent. They said the low ranking instead should propel stakeholders to sit up and take radical steps aimed at improving the overall system in terms of funding, capacity building, research, international linkage programme and floating problem solving programmes, rather than courses which do not make desired impact on the growth and development of the nation.
“Nigerians may not like what they see at the moment, but it may be a blessing in disguise if the poor showing of Nigerian universities in the World University Rankings will eventually lead to improvement in standards. Nigerian academics, government officials and other concerned stakeholders should see the non-inclusion of Nigerian universities in the global rankings as a challenge. It is only through a resolve to change for good that Nigerian universities may eventually emerge from the doldrums where they currently find themselves”, said Mr. Uche Nwora, a public analyst.
The University of Ilorin, ranked the best in Nigeria is placed 5484th in the world and 55th in Africa, out of a total of 20,000 institutions of higher learning worldwide. The study was conducted by Webometrics, an initiative of a public research body called Cybermetrics Lab based in Spain. No Nigerian university has ever been rated among the first five thousand best in the world.
So, it is a marginal improvement that the University of Ilorin has shown up on the radar this year. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, comes second in Nigeria and placed 5756th in the world and 61st in Africa. It is followed by University of Jos, University of Lagos, University of Benin, University of Ibadan, and University of Nigeria Nsukka. They are in the following order 66th, 68th, 77th, 79th, 99th positions in Africa and 5882nd, 5,936th, 6,324th, 6,425th and 7,170th in the world.
According to the figures released, only one African university is rated among the first 500 and only five among the first one thousand in the world. The University of Cape Town, South Africa, which ranks higher than the rest in Africa placed 340th globally. The three other top universities; Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, and University of the Witwatersrand are also in South Africa.
Though the yardstick used in assessing these universities have been greatly criticised, as lacking scientific evidence, Nigerians must come to terms with the pathetic condition of its university system. The old generation universities have not found their footing in the global ranking, but some of the private universities are also struggling to make their mark. Only time will tell when such lofty dreams would come to reality.